A new feasibility study conducted in part by the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), shows biomass cooling can be a viable option for small-to-medium sized commercial, industrial and residential units. The research results, which are part of the Biomass for Cooling System Technologies: A Feasibility Guide, also identifies innovations that utilize biomass as the essential wellspring of energy for cooling systems.

The study, created through a partnership between a cohort of organizations that included AURI and two University of Minnesota groups: the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) and the Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (NWRSDP), shows that biomass cooling technology has multiple advantages.  The report found that biomass cooling is both an economical alternative to traditional cooling systems as well as an environmentally sound option. By implementing biomass cooling, users have the potential to mitigate future increases in energy costs while also reducing their carbon footprints.

“The potential for this technology is amazing in that it can be an economically feasible option for implementation in multiple applications, including commercial and residential units,” said Shannon Schlecht, AURI’s executive director. “Additionally, the analysis illustrates another renewable energy solution that can benefit local economies and businesses in Minnesota and the region.”

The study, which is available to the public from AURI’s website, details a number of exciting opportunities for the technology. In the process of attaining in-depth information about biomass cooling and its implementation opportunities, valuable information was gained regarding the working principle of commercially available cooling systems, including different types of system components and capacities.

According to Project Manager Becky Philipp, “this project ties in to the AURI mission as it provides a potential added benefit for biomass thermal system installations that could ultimately result in expanded market opportunities for biomass and the biomass industry in Minnesota and beyond.” Philipp went on to say that while the economics may not work for all types of biomass fuel at a given time, the information provided in the report facilitates forward thinking and future planning for when the economics do prove feasible.  The report identifies technologies that present opportunities for other potential add-on benefits when employing or looking to employ biomass for heating, which makes the investment even more attractive.

AURI Senior Associate Scientist Alan Doering expanded on the economic aspect by saying, “availability and transportation costs will dictate the most economic biomass fuel sources. Utilizing a renewable biomass fuel over conventional or petroleum based fuels can reduce negative impacts on the environment, provide energy security, as well as develop new job creation within communities.”

AURI believes this feasibility study will help open the door for continued development and implementation of biomass cooling technology for commercial, industrial and residential use. Future updates on this subject are can be found on the AURI website, or by contacting Becky Philipp at bphilipp@auri.org. All media inquiries should be directed to Erik Evans at 612-704-1120 or eevans@auri.org.

To view the complete report, click here, or visit http://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/181032

Official Feasibility Report Partners:

University of Minnesota, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA)

University of Minnesota, Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (NWRSDP)

Western Illinois University, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA)

Northwest Minnesota Multi-County Housing & Redevelopment Authority (NWMNHRA)

Greater Minnesota Management (GMM)

Northwest Manufacturing, Inc. / WoodMaster, Minnesota

Pinecrest Medical Care Facility, Michigan

Heating the Midwest Biomass Resources & Demographics Action Team