Sustainability workshop offers view of future | News, Sports, Jobs – NUjournal

Jun 7, 2024
Staff photo by Fritz Busch Muenster University of Applied Sciences Prof. Christof Wetter talks at a sustainability workshop at Turner Hall Thursday. Wetter said an energy park in Saerbeck, Germany has been visited by more than 130,000 people since 2006.
NEW ULM — A sustainability workshop at Turner Hall Thursday drew a variety of individuals including local business and industrial leaders, educators and interns from as far away as Germany.
“The workshop was created to create a community-driven sustainability council to help New Ulm advance in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program,” said New Ulm Public Utilities (NUPU) Energy Services Representative Derek Nelson.
A free, voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program managed by public-private partnerships, GreenStep Cities helps cities achieve sustainability and quality-of-life goals.
Twenty-nine best practices can be implemented, as decided by city elected officials, staff and community members, by completing one or more actions at a 1, 2, or 3-star level. The voluntary actions are tailored to all Minnesota cities, focus on cost savings and energy use reduction and encourage civic innovation.
The City of New Ulm joined the GreenStep Cities program in April 2021 and has reached the second of five recognition steps.
Nelson said the (New Ulm) EDA (Economic Development Authority) has received federal and state money to install solar (panels) at seven locations, the largest one, at the Broadway Haus, 300 N. Broadway.
“A few months back, University of Minnesota graduate students looked at the New Ulm City Hall building and analyzed it for solar installation,” Nelson added.
He said the City of New Ulm is looking at solar power sites including about 80 acres of land near the airport.
“Not all 80 acres would be used for a pilot project,” said Nelson.
A Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) engineer said the company is buying 100% renewable electricity from NUPU, and is landfill-free, recycling waste or sending it to a Mankato waste-to-energy facility.
New Ulm Kraft Heinz Manager Darrin Buegler said the plant has greatly reduced energy use a number of ways.
New Ulm City Council President and Turner Hall Executive Director Andrea Boettger said the City of New Ulm is considering sits for an aerobic digester (where microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen to manage waste or produce fuel).
“New Ulm has the perfect mix of industries to do this, with 3M, Kraft, Schell’s and Firminich,” she said.
“I’m really excited to lead the community in exploring this. Who doesn’t want to be more energy efficient? We aren’t telling people what to do. We’re just sharing information. We can go down the path of change or changes will happen to us,” Boettger added.
Chris Steffl, a 3M manufacturing engineer, said he put solar panels on his home, bought energy efficient appliances and an electric vehicle.
“I hardly use any natural gas to heat my home in the winter. I save lots of water with an energy efficient washer,” said Steffl.
Prof. Christof Wetter of Muenster University of Applied Sciences said his research includes robot use in agriculture and converting diesel engines to burning ammonia.
Wetter talked about a Saerbeck, Germany energy park in that has been visited by more than 130,000 people since it opened in 2006. The park includes a large natural area and education center for students.
“Our goal is to be climate neutral by 2030. It’s about people and education. German kindergarten students study it. More than 3,000 students visit the park each year,” he added.
Muenster University graduate student Jan Fecke presented research on converting gas and diesel engines to burning 80% ammonia and 20% hydrogen. He said a converted engine would not emit carbon dioxide and fuel could be produced for about 90 cents a gallon in the United States. Challenges include NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions.
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