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Globally-Unique Ammonia Production

A project to convert wind energy into anhydrous ammonia fertilizer is underway at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC). The project aims to provide a renewable alternative of creating the $300 million of anhydrous ammonia currently used as nitrogen fertilizer in Minnesota agriculture, all of which is derived from fossil fuel energy sources.

"We are pleased to lead the development of this globally unique pilot project and believe that the technology developed will make a positive and substantial impact on the state's economy and environment," Greg Cuomo, former WCROC Department Head.

"Using Minnesota wind to make nitrogen fertilizer for farmers could transform agriculture, wind and hydrogen economics overnight"
Rolf Nordstrom, Upper Midwest Hydrogen Initiative

"The production of anhydrous ammonia is an ideal use for hydrogen in rural Minnesota," Cuomo said. "Anhydrous ammonia has many applications, but the most important use may be as nitrogen fertilizer. In addition, the infrastructure needed to store, move, and use renewable nitrogen fertilizer is already in place in almost every rural community in rural Minnesota."

"In the 1920's, world wide food demand required the development of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Companies and institutions were able to innovate to meet this requirement. Now we are again faced with new challenges to our state's agriculture industry, economy, energy system, and environment. The Wind-to-Ammonia pilot project could be major part of the solution and enable Minnesota to continue as a world leader in renewable energy," says Mike Reese, WCROC Renewable Energy Coordinator.

The goals of this project include:

  1. Provide substantial economic development opportunities for farmers and rural communities.
  2. Limit dependence on natural gas and decrease resulting green house gas emissions.
  3. Establish Minnesota as a world leader in renewable hydrogen production and wind energy.
  4. Create a solid foundation from which to grow Minnesota manufacturing companies and attract complimentary hydrogen related industries.
  5. Open a new market for an estimated 2 gigawatts of nameplate wind capacity within the state stimulating wind energy development in Minnesota.
  6. Diminish the need for additional transmission capacity to accommodate wind energy.
  7. Enable utility companies to manage the variable nature of wind energy and electrical demand.
  8. "Using Minnesota wind to make nitrogen fertilizer for farmers could transform agriculture, wind and hydrogen economics overnight," says Rolf Nordstrom, director of the Great Plains Institute's Upper Midwest Hydrogen Initiative (UMHI). The fact that this could reduce input costs for farmers and boost wind development without the need for transmission lines or power purchase agreements makes this approach a potential grand slam," said Nordstrom.