Imagine burning unusable crop leftovers in an environmentally friendlier way, producing enough energy to heat a school building, small office complex or a low-scale manufacturing facility. That's what's happening right now at the University of Minnesota Morris's biomass plant.
Its research-based gasification unit at the plant has been set up as a model for commercial application of biomass in heating and cooling systems. Researchers at the facility examine how best to collect, process, and store the gas. They're also trying to establish management practices to insure environmental sustainability of biomass systems and provide valuable information on the economic impact of using biofuels on rural economies.
The gasification plant is one step toward UMM's goal of reaching energy self-sufficiency by 2010, which also includes a wind tower and plans to and another this fall.