A large-scale project known formally as the University of Minnesota Renewable Energy Research and Demonstration Center at Morris includes development in community and locally-owned energy systems including wind, biomass, biofuels, and hydrogen.
Renewable energy is a growth industry for Minnesota. Strategic investments in wind energy, biomass, biofuels, and hydrogen systems have positioned the University of Minnesota Renewable Energy Center as a premier renewable energy incubator in the Midwest. The West Central Research and Outreach Center has a tradition of pioneering renewable energy research -- the state's first ethanol research facility was built there in the early 1980's.
The Center is part of the University's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE). IREE is a collaborative effort across the U of M system, along with private and public partners, to promote statewide economic development, sustainable, healthy, and diverse ecosystems, and national energy security through development of bio-based and other renewable resources and processes.
The Minnesota State Legislature and Governor approved $2.2 million in bonding funds during the 2008 legislative session. This $2.2 million (of a $3.3 million total cost) will be used to construct a renewable energy and green building education addition to the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) Administration Building. This additional space will provide critically important research and education space, enhance the WCROC's agricultural and renewable energy research and demonstration systems, and provide high impact educational experiences.
Using a variety of "smart energy" options - solar panels, mini-wind turbine, geothermal heating/cooling, greenhouse that utilizes gray water, Trombe walls to provide passive solar heat to the building - the extension will use only renewable and environmentally-friendly sources for the power it requires.
In the completed addition, the WCROC will host an information center where visitors and researchers can examine various green building innovations applicable to both the home and office. By creating a space to learn and share ideas about sustainable building, the hope exists to improve upon green building design while educating people in how they can modify their living and work spaces to use less energy.