Initiative for Renewable Energy & the Environment Institute on the Environment | University of Minnesota Thu, 03 Jul 2014 19:05:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Renewable Energy Research and Engagement Thu, 18 Oct 2012 18:05:04 +0000

News and updates on research funded by the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment can now be found by going to the Institute on the Environment’s News and Events page.

UM Morris Recognized by U.S. Department of Energy Thu, 16 Aug 2012 19:49:21 +0000 Here’s a shout-out to our friends on the University of Minnesota, Morris campus for being recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy!  Check out this page for the story and for a video.

Clean and renewable energy supports American jobs Wed, 11 Jul 2012 16:29:32 +0000 There are at least a million clean energy jobs in the United States, from hard hats and lab coats to engineers and installers. The sector is a strong and growing contributor to America’s economy.

Check out the stats on the Energy Fact Check, a resource of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).

IREE-Funded Research Published Today in Science Fri, 29 Jun 2012 15:06:50 +0000 IREE-funded researcher, Michael Tsapatsis, is leading an international team that has made a major breakthrough in developing a catalyst used during chemical reactions in the production of gasoline, plastics, biofuels, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals. The discovery could lead to major efficiencies and cost-savings in these multibillion-dollar industries.

The research is to be published in the June 29, 2012 issue of the leading scientific journal Science.  Read the full research paper entitled “Synthesis of Self-Pillared Zeolite Nanosheets by Repetitive Branching,” on the Science website.

Read the press release from the College of Science and Engineering for the complete story.

Call for Proposals – IREE’s Final Funding Opportunity Mon, 25 Jun 2012 16:00:32 +0000 The Institute on the Environment (IonE) is issuing a final IREE request for proposals (RFP).   We anticipate funding two to four projects, with awards of up to $750,000 per project. The application process for University of Minnesota faculty includes:

  • Mandatory letter of intent (LOI)- Due August 15, 2012 by 11 pm CST
  • Full proposals- Due September 30, 2012 by 11 pm CST
  • Awards will be announced by the end of October, 2012.

The lead Principal Investigator (PI) must be employed by the University of Minnesota and be qualified to have PI status. For more information please email IREE.

IREE’s Richard Hemmingsen to Participate in NREL’s Executive Energy Leadership Program Wed, 20 Jun 2012 14:40:03 +0000 The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has selected 19 leaders to participate in its 2012 Executive Energy Leadership program (Energy Execs), a premier leadership program focused on delivering clean energy solutions. Richard (Dick) Hemmingsen, IREE’s Managing Director, is among the participants.

The five-month program gives executive decision-makers from throughout the United States an in-depth look at renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Briefings by NREL technology experts, research laboratory tours and visits to field applications are part of the experience.

“The world needs leaders to help transform our current energy system to one that is more sustainable.  We are thrilled to welcome and inform our business, community and government leaders so they can understand the implications of their energy decisions and demonstrate leadership for the long-term clean energy economy,” NREL Director Dan Arvizu said.

At the conclusion of the program, participants present a viable project on a clean energy application. Since its inception, more than 115 representatives of industry, government and non-profit organizations have completed the Energy Execs program, delivered through the Executive Energy Leadership Academy. For more information, visit

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

For a complete list of 2012’s Energy Execs and NREL’s press release, click here.

New Coalition will Develop the World’s Cleanest Passenger Locomotive Wed, 23 May 2012 15:18:01 +0000

New steam engine has the potential to change both the rail industry and clean energy research.

MINNEAPOLIS – Plans to create the world’s first carbon-neutral higher-speed locomotive were announced today by the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR), a collaboration of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) and the nonprofit Sustainable Rail International (SRI). CSR draws on the carbon-neutral solid biofuel research expertise of the University of Minnesota and the modern steam mechanical engineering capabilities of SRI to develop the most powerful carbon-neutral locomotive to date.

CSR Project 130 has a simple goal: create the world’s cleanest, most powerful passenger locomotive, proving the viability of solid biofuel and modern steam locomotive technology. The Coalition will put its technology to the test by planning to break the world record for steam locomotive speed, reaching 130 miles per hour and demonstrating the viability of this revolutionary, clean transportation technology.

The locomotive will run on torrefied biomass (biocoal), a biofuel created through an energy-efficient processing of cellulosic biomass. Biocoal exhibits the same energy density and material handling properties as coal, but unlike coal, it is carbon neutral, contains no heavy metals, and produces less ash, smoke and volatile off-gases. Since it exhibits such similar characteristics to coal, biocoal has the potential to revolutionize the way the United States generates clean electricity.

“Participation in the Coalition for Sustainable Rail has enabled our team to pursue one of the more exciting and potentially groundbreaking research projects in the history of IonE,” said Rod Larkins, Special Projects Director of IonE’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment. “Once perfected, creating the world’s first carbon-neutral locomotive will be just the beginning for this technology which, we hope, will later be used for combined heat and power energy in the developing world as well as reducing the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels.”

Preliminary research shows that CSR’s test locomotive will cost less to maintain and less to fuel, and will exhibit greater train handling performance than any diesel-electric locomotives available today. The modern steam locomotive has relied on technology that has been neglected for decades. This is about to change. With the ability to burn biocoal efficiently and without negative impact on the environment, CSR’s modern steam locomotive will also exhibit significantly better horsepower output at higher speeds than the current diesel-electric locomotives that pull the majority of passenger trains in the United States.

“This project presents a novel approach to U.S. locomotive development, looking to technologies of the past to inspire solutions for today’s sustainability challenges,” said SRI President Davidson Ward. “I’m confident that the leading energy researchers we’re working with at the University of Minnesota, along with our team of engineers, will be able to bring this technology to the forefront of America’s energy and transportation conversations.”

In November 2011, SRI acquired a large test bed steam locomotive through a transfer of ownership from the Great Overland Station Museum in Topeka, Kan. This locomotive, built in 1937 for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, will be reconfigured by SRI’s locomotive modernization experts, then tested as part of CSR Project 130.

The success of CSR Project 130 has implications that extend beyond the railroad industry, proving the viability of biocoal for use in the developing world. Locomotive engineering on combustion and boiler technologies allows CSR to design power boilers and electric generators on scales from 5 to 5,000 kilowatts. This technology is adaptable for homes in villages of the developing world as well as for use in the U.S. Every dollar spent on engineering support of CSR Project 130 can generate up to three times the benefit in outgrowth technologies to solve energy problems in the United States and around the world.

“When I think of the University of Minnesota’s motto, ‘Driven to Discover,™’ it is precisely the kind of research-based innovation present in CSR Project 130 that sets our school apart,” said Don Fosnacht, Ph.D., Director of the University’s Center for Applied Research and Technology Development. “The idea of integrating cutting-edge materials science and engineering into a technology base that has not been touched since the 1960s is quite unique, and entering into an industry with as much potential for growth as the U.S. railroad market just adds to CSR Project 130’s impact.”

In May, SRI completed a cosmetic restoration and stabilization of Locomotive 3463 in Topeka. Plans are to move the locomotive to Minneapolis within the next 12 months. Once moved, CSR will complete the detailed engineering needed to modernize and reconfigure the locomotive.

For more information on the Coalition for Sustainable Rail and CSR Project 130 visit


Sustainable Rail International: Sustainable Rail International (SRI), an IRS approved 501(c)(3) and Minnesota nonprofit corporation, is a scientific and educational organization whose mission is to advance biofuel research and production; to research and develop sustainable railroad locomotives; to promulgate associated sustainable technologies; and to support and conduct nonpartisan educational and informational activities to increase awareness of sustainable railroad locomotives. Founded by Rob Mangels, Shaun McMahon, John Rhodes and Davidson Ward, SRI maintains internationally renowned steam locomotive mechanical engineers and U.S. industry professionals among its diverse members.

Institute on the Environment: The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment discovers solutions to Earth’s most pressing environmental problems by conducting transformative research, developing the next generation of global leaders and building world-changing partnerships. Learn more online at

Solar Energy Workshop at WCROC Fri, 04 May 2012 19:10:01 +0000 Are you thinking about purchasing a solar energy system?
Are you thinking about a career in solar energy?
Do you wonder how well solar energy works in Minnesota?

Join our friends from the University of Minnesota-Morris and the West Central Research and Outreach Center for their Solar Energy Workshop on June 12, 8:00a.m. to 4:00p.m.

Several small-scale solar energy systems are in use in the Morris area presenting a rare learning opportunity. The West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) is hosting a solar energy work-shop to discuss the solar resource available and ex-plain the technology used to collect it. There will also be a tour and presentation on performance data from local installations including a solar air conditioning system using evacuated tube collectors at the WCROC office building. The other local systems include pool heating, hot water, and electric systems.  Minnesota solar manufacturers will be on hand and there will be a keynote address by University of Minnesota professor Jeffrey Bielicki.

Click here to register, to view the workshop’s agenda and to check out Renewable Energy Initiatives at the University of Minnesota-Morris.  Online registration is requested prior to June 1st.  Space is limited so register today.

Solutions Summit 2012 – collaboratively solving sustainability challenges Tue, 01 May 2012 19:19:14 +0000

Solutions Summit 2012 will bring together sustainability practitioners and researchers from business, industry, the nonprofit sector and academia to identify and advance strategies for collaboratively solving sustainability challenges.

Keynote speaker for the event is internationally renowned environmentalist and entrepreneur Paul Hawken, author of Natural Capitalism, Blessed Unrest and five other books. Hawken will share his perspectives on the economic and ecological landscape in which innovation will be fostered in coming years, with focus on climate, minerals and oceans. Other featured presenters include sustainability leaders from 3M, Environmental Defense Fund, Caldrea,The Nature Conservancy, General Mills, eBay and Truth Studio.

Solutions Summit 2012 participants will:
  • Learn sustainability leaders’ strategies for success
  • Go beyond sound bites to in-depth conversations about  sustainability challenges and solutions
  • Connect with other sustainability professionals to forge partnerships for future progress
  • Help shape the research agenda for solving sustainability’s biggest challenges.

To learn more about Solutions Summit 2012, click here.

Fungi for the next generation of bioconversion systems Wed, 25 Apr 2012 15:10:08 +0000

The University of Minnesota has become well-known as a center for lignocellulose biodegradation research, particularly in regards to woody cell wall breakdown. Robert Blanchette, a Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, and Jonathan Schilling, an Associate Professor in the Department  of Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering have teamed up to begin interdisciplinary research that combines forest biology, wood microbiology and bioprocessing technology to provide superior fungi for the next generation of bioconversion systems.

Their research will provide a better understanding of how fungi degrade wood and other lignocelluosic materials so they can be used in processes involving the bioconversion of plant biomass. To use nonedible plant biomass as a feedstock for fuels and chemicals, it is necessary to alter cell wall components and free cellulose from surrounding lignin. Our goal is to identify the organisms with the greatest potential for bioconversion potential and with the ability to pioneer and outcompete other microbes in biological pretreatment scenarios.

Read more about Blanchette’s Seed Grant from IREE.