Demonstrating Sustainable Energy Practices at Residential Environmental Learning Centers (RELCs) - Eagle Bluff

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2011 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund
The MN Coalition of RELCs
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
Start Date
July 2010
End Date
June 2012
Counties Affected
St. Louis
St. Louis
Project Overview

Six environmental learning centers located around the state - Audubon Center of the North Woods, Deep Portage Learning Center, Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, Laurentian Environmental Learning Center, Long Lake Conservation Center and Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center - are using this appropriation to expand their use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy conservation technologies at their facilities. Once implemented these technologies will be employed as demonstrations to be used in their educational curriculum for close to 85,000 visitors each year. These improvements may also be used as part of the New ERA (Energy Resource Advisor) program being developed by Winona State University that will offer adults a continuing education course intended to foster understanding and leadership of environmental sustainability in our communities, homes, and workplaces.

Minnesota's six accredited Residential Environmental Learning Center's undertook a collaborative project, "Today's Leaders for a Sustainable Tomorrow," with the intent of acting as a public resource for information regarding energy use and energy technologies. This was accomplished by demonstrating geographically appropriate technologies for reducing energy use and providing public access to energy information through formal education programs and a web presence. In-depth information on each center's energy reduction demonstrations are found in their individual reports. A bulleted summary of each demonstration is as follows:

  • Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center - Lanesboro, MN: Installed deep energy reduction retrofit, solar thermal, and a solar hot water heater.
  • Audubon Center of the North Woods - Sandstone, MN: Installed geothermal heat pump, solar arrays, solar panels, and a wind generator.
  • Deep Portage Learning Center - Walker, MN: Installed wood gasification system and lighting upgrades (CFLs to LEDs and T12s to T8s).
  • Laurentian Environmental Learning Center - Britt, MN: Installed building envelope improvements, energy conservation technologies, and a solar hot water heater.
  • Long Lake Conservation Center - Palisades, MN: Installed building envelope improvements, a solar hot water heater, and lighting upgrades (trail lighting and T12s to T8s).
  • Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center - Finland, MN: Installed biofuel heating system, solar arrays, wind generation, and lighting upgrades (trail lighting and T 12s to T8s).

Eagle Bluff implemented a deep energy reduction retrofit on its most inefficient building, the staff residence. The building was super insulated using the Cold Climate Housings Research Center's REMOTE (Residence Exterior Membrane Outside-insulate Technique). Solar thermal heat was added for domestic hot water and building heating. A 5.6 Kw solar photovoltaic system provides green power for the heating system. As a result of the retrofit, the building became the 9th house in North America to receive ACI's 1000 Home Challenge for reducing energy consumption by over 78% A pdf describing the project is available from Eagle Bluff.

All centers collaborated in developing over 20 new units of educational curriculum based on the following seven areas: biomass, conservation, efficiency, energy basics, food and energy, solar power and wind power. An activity toolbox was designed for use at the RELC's and in the formal classroom. They range from formal lessons to informal tours to an energy choice challenge and are currently in practice at the RELC's collectively reaching nearly 60,000 visitors/students annually. In order to determine the efficacy of the educational materials and program, an external assessment was done which evaluated the knowledge and behaviors of visitors to the RELC who participated in the activities. The results showed that 88.5% of children and 50.6% of adults had an increase in knowledge and 70.2% of children and 52.6% of adults increased their energy conserving behaviors while visiting an RELC.

Homeowners, commercial businesses, educators and the general public can access the educational materials, assessment results, demonstration information, and current energy use/production on the Today's Leaders for a Sustainable Tomorrow website at:

In addition, this project has allowed the centers the opportunity to collaborate with Winona State University to offer an Energy Resource Advisor course which is part of Continuing Education program and a core course in WSU's Sustainability major.

Using the TLFAST demonstrations and curriculum as the framework, the centers are also now positioned to collaborate on an innovative program funded by the National Science Foundation which focuses on providing informal STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) experiences for K-12 students.

In the upcoming year and upon the total completion of the project, the centers' will be participating in tours, conferences, or workshops to share the success of the project and publicize the resources available to the public as a result of the project.

Project Details
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2010, Chp. 362, Sec. 2, Subd. 07d1
Appropriation Language

$1,500,000 is from the trust fund to the commissioner of natural resources for agreements as follows: $206,000 with Audubon Center of the North Woods; $212,000 with Deep Portage Learning Center; $350,000 with Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center; $258,000 with Laurentian Environmental Learning Center; $240,000 with Long Lake Conservation Center; and $234,000 with Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center to implement renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy conservation practices at the facilities. Efforts will include dissemination of related energy education.

2011 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
The MN Coalition of RELCs
Street Address
% Eagle Bluff, 28097 Goodview Dr
Zip Code
(507) 467-2437
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

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