Considerations for clean thermal energy
There are a few examples of clean thermal energy in use on campus at this time. These include:
- the solar thermal panels on the Activities Rec Center, heating the three swimming pools
- the biomass boiler at the Energy Farm, heating the two story greenhouse on south Race Street
- geothermal installations providing heating and cooling at the Fruit Farm Admin Building, the RIPE greenhouse, the Campus Instructional Facility, a few buildings at Allerton Park, the solar decathlon Gable Home at the Energy Farm, and a few rooms in the Hydrosystems Building
- a wood-fired stove heating some maintenance buildings at Allerton Park
We could expand these types of energy systems...
- Additional geothermal installations are being planned for various places around campus, including a geothermal battery system at the Energy Farm. The other geothermal locations in planning discussions now include the South Campus Center for Interdisciplinary Learning, a future greenhouse for CABBI, and the Doris Christopher Kelley Illinois Extension Building in the Arboretum.
- The biomass boiler at the Energy Farm was designed with the anticipation of future expansion.
- Solar thermal is a great option for our area of the planet, but it is not easy to integrate it in our existing energy enterprise.
Another option for clean thermal energy is biogas, which UIUC contributes to locally through the Grind2Energy system, which takes food waste from the dining halls to the Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District (UCSD). UCSD puts it through their anaerobic digester which captures the methane (a very strong greenhouse gas). Currently, that captured methane is used to run an electrical generator, which provides power to the UCSD facility. An alternative would be to upgrade the methane to pipeline quality and use the biogas a Abbott Power Plant on campus. This is an expensive option that would require a lot of coordination and funding.
Another strong option is a micronuclear reactor, which is being studies by the Grainger College of Engineering faculty and researchers. This system could be integrated with the existing steam distribution system and provide ghg-free energy to campus.