By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nestled along the Mississippi River between new condos and waterside restaurants is an old building where some of nature’s mysteries are being unlocked.

It’s called the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, and it just got a $16 million renovation.

The lab is a building that’s quietly affecting the way the world looks at nature. It’s been a research hub for 75 years.

University of Minnesota grad student Sarah Baumgardner works in the delta lab. She’s trying to figure out why the Nile delta and Mississippi delta are different and what that means for climate change.

Her tools were on the receiving end of the renovation. One scan that used to take an hour now takes minutes.

“When I saw it go for the first time, I kinda went…just like open mouth, staring at it for the first five minutes,” she said.

And the lab’s guided staff tour proves there’s more to the renovations that just better equipment. For instance, there’s a state-of-the-art wind tunnel, which could have a future effect on your monthly bills.

“It’s all about reducing the cost increasing the performance,” said lab director Dr. Fotis Sotiropoulos.

The goal, he says, is “to make wind energy be competitive with natural gas.”

Air is one emphasis of the research hub and water is a main vein.

“Not only is the building beside the Mississippi, it’s over the Mississippi, the river actually runs right through the middle of the lab,” Sotiropoulos said.

The lab is using a water pressure lab to help the Navy develop underwater speed boats.

Staffers only hope to enhance experiments now that the century-old building got a facelift.

“This is fun, this is great,” Baumgardner said.

If you want a virtual look at the lab, click here.

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