Demonstrating Sustainable Energy Practices at Residential Environmental Learning Centers (RELCs) - Deep Portage Learning Center

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.

OVERALL PROJECT OUTCOME AND RESULTS Cass County, MN has installed a small wind turbine and solar hot water system and has made electrical and envelope improvements to the environmental education facility known as Deep Portage Learning Center. A $212,000 grant from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund has made this possible. All of these systems have been installed, and we now have a year's worth of energy savings data. The 10 Kw small wind turbine has produced 4,200 Kw hours of electricity and has eliminated the emission of 10,080m lbs. of carbon dioxide. The solar hot water system has produced thousands of gallons of domestic hot water and displaced 1,400 gallons of fossil fuel propane. New LED (light-emitting diodes) lights, E Solutions refrigeration equipment and new Energy Star windows round out the project. These technologies are for demonstration and education. A new sustainable energy curriculum has been developed and piloted with several Minnesota schools. Five-hundred-plus people have now gone on a renewable energy tour at the center. This project shows our residents how to reduce our carbon footprint, save money. and support local jobs and industry. The electrical use at the Deep Portage Learning Center is now an astonishing 2.2 Kw hours per square foot annually. The Carbon footprint has been cut in half, and the total energy savings is $15,000-20,000 per year. This is a model that can be repeated at public schools and government buildings around the State.

Information about this project will be disseminated in our center's newsletters, website and blogs, emails, and annual reports. It will also be discussed in all future New ERA training seminars held on-site at each center.

The Energy Resource Advisor (ERA) certificate, developed by Winona State University, is a new curriculum designed to accelerate public understanding of energy efficiency, clean energy, carbon emissions, resource conservation, green technologies, and green jobs. This curriculum is the first of its kind in Minnesota. It is a non-credit, continuing education course for adults 18 years of age and older, using online instructional technology combined with applied, field experience at one of the six RELCs. Participants in this class will learn about: a) the basic components of an energy audit, b) small-scale renewable energy including site suitability, system sizing, and financial incentives that are available, c) alternative building and transportation options, d) ways to "green up" the home or business, and e) the field of emerging "green" jobs. After completing this course, the successful participant may serve as an energy resource advisor and "green" consultant in the community and workplace.

Deep Portage has had over 200 participants attend renewable energy tours and has taught classes to elementary students in renewable energy. We have posted data on our Facebook page, and our website has a renewable energy toolbar with data on the accomplishments of the initiative. The TLFAST and LCCMR websites also feature information.

The collective website is up and running, The six centers have collaboratively developed 22 units of curriculum for use by each center. These curricula integrate the use of the demonstrated sustainable energy practices at each of the centers. These lessons were pilot tested in all six centers this past spring, adjustments made over the summer, and are now all available for groups.

Project Details
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2010, Chp. 362, Sec. 2, Subd. 07d3
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
Deep Portage Learning Center, 2197 Nature Center Drive NW
Zip Code
(218) 682-2325
Administered By
Administered by

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

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