Demonstrating Sustainable Energy Practices at Residential Environmental Learning Centers (RELCs) - Audubon Center of the North Woods

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
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2010, Chp. 362, Sec. 2, Subd. 07d2
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 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.

As part of the coalition of Minnesota's residential environmental learning centers Today's Leaders for a Sustainable Tomorrow (TLFAST), the Audubon Center of the North Woods has made reducing our carbon footprint, through energy conservation, efficiency and renewable technologies, a top priority. We aim to serve as a sustainable energy demonstration site by modeling responsible energy usage and through energy offering energy curriculum for the nearly 10,000 participants that visit us every year. Through funding from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), we have been able to make strides in both of these directions. With our ENRTF grant, we hired an architecture and engineering firm to design the envelope improvements and solar hot water systems that would benefit several of our campus buildings. We contracted with local builders and installers to:

  1. Improve the envelopes of our two largest buildings, the Dining Hall and Crosby Dormitory, through blown cellulose insulation, foam sealing air penetrations and weather stripping exterior doors.
  2. Insulate the walls and roof as well as re-side and re-shingle our 100+ year old Wildlife Barn.
  3. Insulate Nationally Historic Registered Schwyzer Lodge through blown cellulose insulation in the crawl spaces and attic, as well as vapor-line and foam-seal the open air basement.
  4. Install a solar hot water system at our Dining Hall for hot water use in our kitchen and dining hall restrooms.
  5. Install a solar hot water system at Crosby Dormitory for hot water use of showers and sinks in the dormitory rooms.

Through these energy improvements we anticipate savings 259,570 lbs. of carbon annually from reduction in propane and electricity usage. As part of TLFAST, we have helped to create 22 energy lessons to engage and inform students about energy issues and topics to be taught at the Audubon Center and outreach programs.

Information about this project is disseminated through the TLFAST collective website at We have written about this project in our past two Audubon Center of the North Woods newsletters, and have been leading energy tours for local groups for the past several months, highlighting the outcomes of the ENRTF grant. In the spring of 2011, we contacted our 80+ participating K-12 schools about the opportunity to pilot test the energy curriculum developed and had several schools participate. Information about the completed energy lessons has been sent to all participating schools as options for their on-site or outreach programs.

Project Details
Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
The MN Coalition of RELCs
Street Address
Audubon Center of the North Woods, PO Box 530
Zip Code
(320) 245-2648