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Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley visited Mankato to celebrate Earth Day Monday. Kelley toured the MNSU campus, focused on the various renewable energy-focused projects and celebrated the progress that has been made.
First celebrated in 1970 in response to the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, Earth Day is a celebrated worldwide to raise awareness of environmental issues and inspire appreciation for the environment. It is a day people show their commitment to a more sustainable world.
Earth Day is a creation of former U.S. senator Gaylord Nelson who wanted to raise awareness about air and water pollution. With demonstrations across America, the first Earth Day eventually led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Now with over 190 countries celebrating Earth Day around the world, the pressure is still on for the job of saving the planet.
Kelley told a story about his first Earth Day experience while in high school, going out with his friends and taking a survey on the attitudes related to the environment. Although they were not sure about what they were to do to help the environment other than picking up litter, he was happy with the efforts made by young advocates on climate change to move toward renewable energy and setting clear goals that would help everybody who is part of the energy system.
Some of the projects Kelley saw were funded by Xcel Energy grants. They included the creation of sustainable “microgrid” power systems led by Dr. Jianwu Zeng, and the optimization of placement of vertical axis wind turbines led by Dr. Patrick Tebbe. Graduate student Jon Richter explained the need for improved VAWT efficiency with the reduced land availability demonstrating how the group uses the water channel to obtain velocity data around 3D printed replicas.
In an Elements article, Zeng explained, “Electric power is capable of being stored in the microgrid and exchanged among different houses.” His goal is to design the power converter with a more compact structure while achieving higher efficiency.
With farmers being challenged by lower prices, the opportunity rises for lots of people to own a piece of the future energy systems. Kelley’s visit expressed Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan’s One Minnesota Path to Clean Energy. Minnesota leads the way in the Midwest, having met its renewable energy standard goal of 25 percent by 2025 using wind, solar, biomass and hydropower.
“It is important to bring those pieces together but without the technical and research work that the students are doing, we won’t know what our options are,” said Kelley, commending the college on the importance of research work to the advocacy efforts and policies set forth by the state government. “We need more examples like that tried out in a lot of places.”
President Richard Davenport spoke on the strides that the University has made to reduce its carbon emissions with a 7-8 percent loss, which is 4,161 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. MNSU has also received various awards via its energy-sustainability projects with savings of over $400,000 annually.
The bill, sponsored by senator Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, establishes the Clean Energy First Act. This bill proposes the desire of the state to be 100 percent carbon free generation by 2050, requiring electric utilities to meet resource needs using clean energy resources.
With the bill set to hit the senate today, an expansion will be made on the state’s energy savings policy goal and Conservation Improvement Modernization Act of 2019, and perhaps the creation of more clean energy economic opportunities.
Header photo by John Shrestha | MSU Reporter.