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Energy Transition Lab

Duluth’s Energy Future

August 12, 2016Megan ButlerEvents, Featured, NewsComments Off on Duluth’s Energy Future

Duluth Energy Future Photo

Over the past year, the Energy Transition Lab has been involved in research regarding Duluth and Northeast Minnesota’s Energy Future. By integrating renewables such as bioenergy and solar along with Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems and energy efficiency into Northeast Minnesota’s existing energy system, the region will be able to increase local resiliency while also having positive impacts on the local economy and environment. In total, this research included bioenergy, solar, energy efficiency, district energy systems and CHP projects to show the pathways that could be involved in developing a truly integrated hybrid energy system.

In September, 2016 Ellen Anderson and Research Assistant Megan Butler traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to present the Energy Transition Lab's work on Duluth's Energy Future at the Energy Policy Institute's 6th Annual Energy Policy Research Conference.

In September, 2016 Ellen Anderson and Research Assistant Megan Butler traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to present the Energy Transition Lab’s work on Duluth’s Energy Future at the Energy Policy Institute’s 6th Annual Energy Policy Research Conference.

The full Duluth’s Energy Future Report is composed of chapters focusing upon three main priority areas which were identified after an extensive stakeholder engagement process in Northeast Minnesota:

  1. An Economic Modeling of Proposed Biomass and Solar Opportunities in Northeast Minnesota 
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    Working with the Labovitz School of Business and Economics Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the Energy Transition Lab utilized an IMPLAN analysis to model the economic impacts of clean energy projects in the region. This research shows that transitioning from fossil fuels to local and regionally-sourced bioenergy and other clean energy resources has the potential to create jobs and economic growth in the city of Duluth and the heavily forested northeast “Iron Range” region of Minnesota.
  2. Strategies for Transforming Building Stock to Zero Energy 
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    Partnering with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research, we developed a prototype for measuring the impact of energy efficiency measures on public buildings. Using this model we demonstrated how to transform an existing public building into a Net Zero Energy/Carbon building. This research allowed us to provide building owners with actionable, cost-effective strategies for reducing the energy footprint of existing building stock. Using this experience, we worked with local partners to develop recommendations for using energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to transform the existing building stock in Duluth.
  3. Combined Heat and Power Barriers and Opportunities in Northeast Minnesota. 
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    CHP is far more efficient than conventional power production, which wastes up to 60% of the energy value of the fuel. If we can capture the heat or thermal energy released during electricity production, it can be a valuable energy resource instead of being released to the atmosphere as wasted heat. Through interviews with organizations that have recently converted to CHP in Minnesota as well as organizations in Northeast Minnesota currently considering CHP, the Energy Transition Lab evaluated and developed recommendations for the legal, regulatory, siting, and other platforms that will enable CHP’s development. 

Read the Full Report

Together, these three areas of research serve to provide a valuable resource for the City of Duluth and Northeast Minnesota to engage key stakeholders in a conversation about how they envision Northeast Minnesota’s energy future. This research will help the city of Duluth take some transformational steps towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy system. In this way Duluth, a blue-collar, industrial, coal-dependent, and extreme climate city in America’s heartland, can also serve as a model for energy transition in the United States by showing that it is possible to transition to cleaner energy systems and benefit the local economy.

Cover Photo Credit:  Jim Brekke

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Administration
The Energy Transition Lab is a strategic initiative of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment in partnership with the Law School.
Funding
Funding for the Energy Transition Lab is primarily provided by the Institute on the Environment. Other funders include McKnight Foundation, Energy Foundation, Carolyn Foundation, US Department of Energy, Wind Energy Foundation and the University of California Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute. Support for energy storage work is provided by the Minneapolis Foundation, Great River Energy, Mortenson Construction, AES Corporation, Next Era Energy Resources, and General Electric. Funders have no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of any manuscript.