The second annual Ag and Energy Expo was held Friday, Feb. 24 at the Staples campus of Central Lakes College. After greetings from Mike Palmer, vice president of the co-sponsoring Mid-Central Federal Saving Bank, and Bob Rick, farm business management instructor at CLC, featured presenter Mike Reese presented “Producing Nitrogen Fertilizer from Wind.” Reese, director of Renewable Energy at the University of Minnesota-Morris, discussed a $3.75 million carbon-free system built at Morris that uses wind power from a towering turbine to produce anhydrous ammonia, a common nitrogen-based fertilizer. “It’s a perfect supply-and-demand match, as the region has no shortage of wind and U.S. farmers use millions of tons of fertilizer,” said Reese.
The plant produces fertilizer for use on university farm land. But those working on the project say a similar system in which fertilizer is produced and sold nearby could contribute to the local economy. It also would take advantage of the region’s wind potential while skirting that industry's main hurdle of needing expensive transmission lines to ship electricity to urban areas that need it, Reese said.
Others presenting at the free event were Joel Tallakson, assistant scientist at the University of Minnesota, on Biomass Crops and Gasification Technology; Greg Padden of Great River Energy; Kari Howe of DEED on Renewable Energy Funding; John Ihle of PlainStates Energy on “Local Wind – Hewitt Wind Turbine; Tom Schulz on Solar Power/Home Energy/Gasification Boiler; Angela Headlee of CERTS on the Rural Minnesota Solar Initiative; Dave Winkelman of WERC on Making Small Wind Work; representatives from West Central Telephone Ass’n. on Photo Voltaic, Solar & Wind; and SarTec/Ag and Energy Center on Opportunities in Energy Crops.