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Planning to use more renewable energy

Date Modified: 12/17/2009 9:42 AM

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By Heather Thorstensen

Agri News staff writer 

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A conference focusing on building Minnesota's bioeconomy was held Dec. 2 at the University of Minnesota.

"Growing the Bioeconomy: Solutions for Sustainability" brought approximately 70 people together to discuss what renewable energy sources are in Minnesota and how they can be used. Many were from the university, including about a dozen Extension educators.

Speakers discussed tools to learn about biomass availability, different technologies that can convert biomass to energy, anaerobic digestion and how biomass is already being used.

Greg Cuomo, association dean for Extension, said the potential is huge for agriculture producers who want to grow biomass for energy. Holding this type of conference helps people interested in creating and using renewable energy understand the issues, so there's less risk on farmers when it comes time to bring biomass growers into the equation.

"We're starting to understand the questions we need to ask," Cuomo said.

Renewable energy conferences are cropping up all over the state, he said, but the University of Minnesota Extension put on this conference as a source of unbiased information. Extension co-hosted the program with the U of M's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment.

"To me, the idea is to be thoughtful," Cuomo said.

The event was a continuation of a conference held a day earlier. That program involved 12 states and was simultaneously broadcast live to host universities in the Midwest, including U of M and Iowa State University.

It also focused on agricultural-based solutions to climate change and energy supply. Speakers included U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. It was the first time the universities came together for such a conference, Cuomo said.