Written by: Rebecca Edler, Sustainability Coordinator

Biomass, the oldest source of renewable energy, will soon be used to heat the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) facility at the College of Menominee Nation. A furnace fired by wood pellets will replace the current heating unit fueled by propane, a nonrenewable fossil fuel that takes millions of years to form. Composed of organic matter, biomass is a renewable energy source that can be restored in a relatively short period of time compared to fossil fuels.

The biomass furnace and pellet feed source bin will be enclosed inside a building allowing SDI to provide tours throughout the year. Individuals will be able to see the unit and learn more about the benefits of using biomass. The Sustainable Development Institute will use the new installation to teach individuals and groups about biomass as an alternative energy source, the cost savings generated, amount of pellets used, and other related information.

This project is funded through the American Indian College Fund’s Traditional Native Arts and Energy/Water Infrastructure Program and aligns with the College’s commitment to reducing campus greenhouse gasses and moving toward climate neutrality. The American Indian College Fund assists tribal colleges and communities by providing financial resources to help strengthen and expand existing infrastructure. Funds for the overall project will replace an aging and inefficient heating system at SDI, an air conditioning unit in Shirley Daly Hall, and select campus lighting. LED florescent bulbs will replace old mercury bulb lighting reducing energy use. The replacement of bulbs is expected to produce an energy savings up to 60-70 percent.

The College’s Sustainable Development Institute collects data to measure campus greenhouse gas emissions. This data is recorded, charted and analyzed to develop projects to mitigate the effects of climate change. Working closely with Shannon Wilber, Director of Campus Support, SDI staff use the data to identify and select campus upgrades that will have the greatest impact on reducing carbon emissions. Planning is articulated in CMN’s Climate Action Plan for reducing the carbon emissions generated on campus. CMN has partial energy support from geothermal wells but is also currently using electricity from Green Bay where coal is used to produce electricity.