Developing and implementing new alternative energy sources is essential to ending the era of fossil fuels and extreme carbon emissions. The more alternative energy sources available, the more potential there is for eradicating fossil fuels as the main energy source. Numerous different innovations have developed within the last few decades because of the massive increase in technology efficiency, and the U of I has taken the initiative to implement many of them. These strides toward alternatives increased after the university committed to cease using coal at Abbott by 2017. The replacement of this power will require as many alternatives available as possible in order to meet the growing need.
Biomass energy is a great example of how the University of Illinois is converting to more renewable energy sources. Biomass can be used to create energy because it contains stored energy from plants that have absorbed energy from the sun through the process of photosynthesis. When biomass is burned, this stored energy is released as heat.
In the Spring of 2014 the SSC funded, Field to Fuel: Biomass Heating on Campus. This project involved purchasing and installing a biomass boiler at the Energy Farm, in order to heat a research greenhouse using Miscanthus that is grown on the Energy Farm. The new biomass boiler arrived in early December, and installation is nearing completion!
This project is exciting because it is the first biomass energy initiative on campus, and it will work to meet the carbon emission caps that are outlined in the Illinois Climate Action Plan. Additionally, with this project, they hope to demonstrate the feasibility of biomass on campus, engage and familiarize faculty and staff personnel with the design, installation, and operation of such systems with a view to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy production on campus, support the education and training of students, and create awareness in the larger community about alternative energy sources. The ultimate hope for the project is that a successful pilot will pave the way toward expanded use of biomass heating on our campus and greatly reduce our campus greenhouse gas emissions.