Morris dedicates a wind turbine

Minnesota seeks to position itself at the forefront of renewable energy development.

While the U.S. Congress can’t seem to get a handle on conservation and renewable energy, at least here in Minnesota the State Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty have made it a priority.

On Friday, officials dedicated a 230-foot wind turbine at the University’s Morris campus. The turbine is expected to last at least 25 years and will pay for itself in 10. Meanwhile, it will supply more than half the campus’s energy needs.

In our relatively flat Midwest landscape, wind turbines are becoming the renewable energy source of choice. Add to them initiatives to increase use of biomass for heating and cooling buildings, and Pawlenty’s vision of Minnesota becoming “the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy” might not be too far off.

The Morris turbine’s other attribute is its contributions to research into hydrogen fuel. While not a truly viable source of fuel for vehicles yet, engineers are hopeful they can develop ways to store and move hydrogen around the country. The Morris turbine is meant to contribute to generating hydrogen that will eventually be able to be stored in a liquid state and piped around the country – something not currently possible on a large scale.

The beauty of such a system would be a reduction in the amount of wasted energy produced. Unused energy can’t really be stored, and the hydrogen system would solve that problem – making the energy available both renewable and more efficient.

Students at Morris seem to be pleased with their progressive energy system. A similar turbine was erected in Northfield, Minn., last year. Hopefully, more are to come. Minnesota’s geography promotes this extremely clean form of energy generation; wind will not ever cease completely.

Pawlenty’s goal for renewable energy in Minnesota is worth every penny put into it. Even when the situation seems bleak for renewable resources at the national level, we can be satisfied we are at the forefront of the effort. Also, we stand to be ahead of the game while fossil fuel prices skyrocket and our environment becomes increasingly threatened. The Morris wind turbine is a huge step in the right direction for our country’s energy needs – if only Congress would look to Minnesota as an example.