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University of Minnesota Morris marks one year of campus-wide carbon neutrality in electricity

A group of people smiles into lens.
Author: 
U of M News Service
Publication date: 
June 22, 2021
The Morris campus expands sustainability efforts throughout West Central Minnesota

MORRIS, Minn. (6/14/2021) – Uniquely located amid an abundance of solar power, wind, and fertile soil, the University of Minnesota Morris has been able to create community-scale clean energy systems to achieve carbon neutrality in electricity in recent years, achieving full carbon neutrality in electricity for the first time last year.

In 2007, UMN Morris accelerated its path toward carbon neutrality as a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment. Since then, the campus has built an on-site, community-scale clean energy platform.

In this diverse and distributed energy model, the majority of the campus’s electricity—approximately 60 percent—is generated by two university-owned, 1.65 megawatt wind turbines. Excess electricity produced by the turbines is sold to the local power provider, reducing the amount of fossil fuels used to service homes, schools, and businesses in the region.

Additional renewable energy comes from several solar photovoltaic installations and a solar thermal array. The campus has also focused on conservation by constructing “green” buildings and expanding energy conservation efforts, like installing LED lighting across campus. A unique feature on campus is the biomass gasification facility, which displaces about 8,000 tons of fossil fuels annually with locally sourced and grown biomass, like corn cobs.

Campus leadership on clean energy has expanded into the larger Morris community and has grown into a community partnership called The Morris Model.

“The Morris Model allows us to generate energy needed for our campus community through our own energy shed,” says Troy Goodnough, UMN Morris sustainability director. “Our collective work throughout the last 10 to 15 years is the springboard that will launch us into the next decade of urgent energy transformation. This model of inclusive energy sustainability is a roadmap for rural communities.”

UMN Morris Chancellor Michelle Behr says, “This is an accomplishment not only for our faculty and staff, who have helped inspire our campus energy journey, but also and especially for our students, who have played a leading role in helping to develop our energy plans, energy monitoring, analysis, and more.”

For several years, UMN Morris has been a leader in sustainability, recognized by Environment America for generating the most renewable electricity per student on campus of any university in the nation. UMN Morris extends its climate leadership across the University of Minnesota by partnering with the West Central Research and Outreach Center, West Central Clean Energy Teams, University of Minnesota Extension, Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, and the Institute on the Environment.

“The UMN Morris campus is teaching, researching, and demonstrating what flourishing rural communities can look like—and showcasing how we can build a clean energy future and strengthen our local economies,” Goodnough says.

Building a fully sustainable future for the U of M five-campus System is a key component of the institution’s first systemwide strategic plan, MPact 2025. U of M campuses across the state are demonstrating a growing leadership in sustainability and environmental teaching, research, and convening power.

About UMN Morris
One of five campuses that comprise the University of Minnesota System, the University of Minnesota Morris provides opportunities for students to grow intellectually, engage in community, experience environmental stewardship, and celebrate diversity. A renewable and sustainable educational experience, UMN Morris prepares graduates for careers, for advanced degrees, for lifelong learning, for work world flexibility in the future, and for global citizenship. Learn more about UMN Morris.

Media contact: Jake Ricker