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3463 broad_sideProject 130 is picking up steam! The plan announced last month to turn a 1937 locomotive into proof-of-concept for a promising carbon-neutral energy source has been nominated for the 2012 Katerva Award, considered the "Nobel Prize" of sustainability.

The project is the brainchild of the Coalition for Sustainable Rail, a collaboration of Sustainable Rail International and the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. Its goal is to renovate the aging engine and run it at 130 mph - a world speed record for a steam locomotive - using torrefied biomass, a carbon-neutral fuel developed by the University's Natural Resources Research Institute. CSR president Davidson Ward says efforts to create the world's first carbon-neutral higher-speed steam locomotive aim to draw attention to the promise of torrefied biomass not only as a sustainable transportation fuel, but also as a potential source of carbon-neutral, renewable combined heat and power in developing countries.

The Katerva Award recognizes and rewards "paradigm-busting ideas" that create change toward a more sustainable world. Last year's grand prize went to Sanergy, an initiative working to build sustainable sanitation centers in Kenya. Project 130 is among some 300+ projects worldwide nominated for this year's award. After selection by an international team of judges, category winners and a grand prize winner will be announced in December.

Text courtesy of Mary Hoff and the "Eye on Earth" blog at the U of M's Institute on the Environment.