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Morris looks to bright future with local clean energy projects

In March, staff with Cedar Creek Energy installed LED lights throughout the city of Morris. Making all of the city’s lights more energy efficient is one example of how the Morris Model, a partnership between the city and the University of Minnesota, Morris, is developing a clean energy future for the community. (Brooke Kern/Sun Tribune)

MORRIS — Morris has a bright future with clean energy projects

The city of Morris and the University of Minnesota, Morris are working together to develop renewable energy in Morris.

Over the winter, the city was able to upgrade lighting at 12 municipal facilities, parking lots and city-owned streetlights to more energy efficient LED lights — one of the first visible steps in developing the Morris Model Clean Energy Hub.

On Tuesday, Jeremy Kalin, CEO of energy consulting firm Eutectics, presented information about the Morris Model and future solar energy projects to the Morris City Council.

"We really view energy efficiency and renewable energy as an investment in the future that makes economic sense as well as helps to close the loop and make communities like Morris more resilient," said Kalin.

The overall goal of the Morris Model is to create 100 percent renewable energy for the entire city, increase local economic development and diversification, and build a better relationship between UMM and the community, explained Kalin.

The LED lighting project is one of the first projects completed as part of the Morris Model. Eutectics helped the city finance the project through a municipal lease — basically, energy savings from the new lights help cover the cost of installation over time.

The total cost of the project was $266,913 giving an annual energy and operational savings of $31,042 over the term of the lease. The total savings over 10 years is about $122,159, which does not include the reduced maintenance costs and the enhanced light quality, Kalin said.

The broader goals of the Morris Model are to provide public and private partnerships, establish energy efficiency and energy technologies, decrease local pollution, provide economic stability, and comprehensives strategies for all facilities.

This project connects the Morris community to Saerbeck, Germany, a city of similar scale to Morris, through a three year partnership. The partners have already connected through Skype and created an agenda for when the two communities "meet" online on May 12. The next Skype meeting will bring together representatives from the city, UMM, and community members interested in clean energy to discuss the finer details of this project.

The partners are also looking at a solar photovoltaic system (PV) for the city of Morris. The city was able to obtain a Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTS) "seed grant" to work with Eutectics for a solar feasibility analysis.

This analysis will include financing options for adding solar panels to Morris City Hall, the Morris Senior Center, the transit bus station, the Morris Liquor Store, the public works garage and the wastewater treatment plant. Of these locations, there are five potential rooftop installations and one six to eight acre field of solar panels at the wastewater treatment plan, Kalin said.

The analysis will include the "recommended installation sizing at each site, reasonable cost estimates, financing options, and a general risk assessment for each financing/procurement option," explained Kalin.

An analysis of their findings will be presented to city council on June 28.