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Project Updates for collection: Renewable Energy Projects


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  1. RECs for small solar rooftop arrays

    Hi Rob and Tony,


    Tim Mies asked me who “owns” the RECs from small scale solar arrays at individual buildings.  I said I’d have to check into it.


    At first I thought all RECs are owned by central campus (UES), but then I questioned myself.  For a rooftop solar array, we don’t include it in the M-RETS program, and at ECE, we only “sold” them the solar farm 2.0 RECs.  We let them count their rooftop solar directly and they have the DOR accordingly. 


    So is it appropriate to tell him that the RECs associated with the 14.7 kW array he is planning to install at the Energy Farm (not the SCAPES project) will be considered “used” at the Energy Farm?


    I would caution that we do not want individual departments to get into selling RECs, without a much broader discussion.  So perhaps we should say that he can use/retire them at his site, but he cannot sell them without further discussion?


    What do you recommend?





    Good questions. I think that if the department “owns” the REC, then they should also be able to sell the REC. I am interested in others views on the topic, and agree that it would lend to a much broader discussion.

    Rob Roman


    I agree that a broader discussion would be helpful.





  2. RE: Hello + Request

    Dear Morgan


    I hope that you are doing well!

    I also hope that my request below are not presumptuous, but … 😊


    1. From August I will be directing the College of Engineering Master’s program in Energy Systems. A you know, this is an interdepartmental program attracting students from across the board (electrical, civil, chemical, nuclear, mechanical, agricultural, computer, …). Part of the program expects students to work on real industry problems, either via an internship or by solving a client’s energy-related problems and communicating designs/solutions with clients. In Fall we have around 25 master’s students but that number will soon double.
      It will be a privilege if our students could perhaps work on F&S energy-related projects. I know that Rizwan Uddin and John Abelson previously had some students work on project for F&S, and for which our students managed to secure some SSC funds. I was hoping that would again be possible. Please can you indicate if you might have any immediate needs for our master’s students to assist F&S with any energy-related design/redesign work? It would be a privilege if they could benefit from such a “real-world” experience.
    2. Andre Nel will again visit UIUC and he would love to again meet with you, please! He arrives here around noon on August 16 and leaves around 4 p.m. of the 17th. Is there perhaps any chance that he could again exchange ideas with you? Andre has brought about some interesting changes at the University of Johannesburg, including a 2-MW PV canopy located on parking areas. South Africa has immense electricity supply problems and you can imagine that running a campus with up to 11 hours of blackouts every day is exceedingly challenging. He has also purchased who-knows-how-many massive diesel generators to cope with blackouts. Totally unsustainable but it does the job for the time being.
      Please can you indicate if you might perhaps be able to meet for lunch at Houlihan’s on August 16th (around 1 p.m.)? Or, if you prefer, Andre could meet you at F&S or at iSEE. (I have also written to Madhu as Andre would like to also meet her.)   


    Thank you in advance for your attention to my requests.
    I look forward to hearing from you!

    Kind regards




    Hi Leon,


    Thanks for reaching out and congrats on becoming the point person for the Masters of Energy Systems!


    I'm adding Rob Roman here, so he can help connect your students with energy focused projects in Utilities and Energy Services (UES). Rob is the director of UES, and he is highly engaged with and supportive of the iCAP efforts.  Can you extend the lunch invite to him as well?


    I will also pull together a few project ideas for your students. Can you remind me what the timeframe is for their projects?


    For lunch, I'll need to reschedule something to be able to join you, so let me confirm next week.  It would be great to hear of the changes Andres has implemented and share some of our new projects as well. 





    Good afternoon Morgan, Rob


    Thank you for your lightning-quick and positive response, and for introducing me to Rob! Rob, I look forward to collaborating with you.

    • The “professional development” part of the M.Eng. (Energy Systems) degree comprises a 4-credit-hour project that can be taken in the Fall or Spring semester. (I believe that some students have also done this in summer, although UIUC faculty have to be available to act as advisors if that were to happen.) Students usually work alone on topics but they could also be given teamwork if the task demands that.

    Where required, our students will also apply for SSC funding for your projects. But, as you know, our students are only here for a year (or perhaps 18 months) so there is only a slight chance that they might be able to participate in the projects for which they will be seeking SSC funding.

    • I appreciate your positive response regarding potentially meeting with Andre! Apologies for the schlep regarding rescheduling your other appointment. Many thanks though for all your efforts. If you cannot reschedule that meeting, I think that Andre will have some time available on the 17th before his meeting with Karl Gnadt at the MTD --- Karl however must still confirm meeting times, etc. I therefore hope that you will indeed be able to accommodate Andre on the 16th, together with Madhu.

    Looking forward to your further communication and wishing you the best



    Hi Leon,


    I hope you are well!  I’m looking at older emails, and I am worried I dropped the ball on this.  Are you still looking for something from me?






    Good morning Morgan


    Great to hear from you 😊.

    Thanks for your follow-up.
    I attended one of Rob Roman’s meetings with his Assoc. Directors --- and they enthusiastically responded with some excellent project recommendations. I summarize the main suggestions below this email.


    If you have any (additional) energy projects that you’d like to recommend for 2024, that would be super. Thank you in advance! I greatly appreciate your support and advice.

    Best wishes,





    1. Protection of our campus energy systems infrastructure from physical and cyber threats. Potential targets across campus include: Abbott Power Plant; electrical sub-stations, distribution center, and load centers; steam tunnels; high-pressure gas piping; domestic water piping system; chiller plants; storm sewer system; etc. We have had an increased frequency of malicious events across the country in recent times and this topic has been trending.
    2. Promoting, marketing, and selling a campus approach to investing in retro-commissioning and control system modernization/optimization. The University of Illinois F&S teams in UES have saved millions of dollars over many years by dedicating staff and financial resources in these areas. This type of project could give students the opportunity to learn the value of a career path in technical sales and the types of companies that utilize these type of staff members. A focus on developing high-level communication skills and strategic sales skills in conjunction with engineering education can be a lucrative path for some students.     
    3. Cost and Environmental Comparison of Fossil Fuels Cogen Plant with Renewable Energy Plant: This project would involve a comprehensive study of providing 100 MW of FIRM (24-7-365) from a plant fired by a fossil fuel fired co-gen plant as compared to a plant that is 100% renewable. I would recommend that for the cogen plant the project focus on a Gas Turbine/HRSG combination that is natural gas fired, and that for the renewable energy plant the project focus on solar/wind as the generation source with the storage required to provide the 24-7-365 reliability from 100 MW. The storage will likely need to be provided by batteries. Incentives/rebates can be considered and used to develop a “current cost” comparison, but I would recommend that a fully loaded cost be included so that there is an apples to apples comparison. Would recommend that the total carbon footprint of each project also be considered.
    4. Chiller Plant Optimization: The University is in the process of developing an optimization model/system for the chilled water system. This model will monitor the system demand as well as the performance of the major pieces of equipment at each of the plants, and optimize the operation of the major pieces of equipment to increase the efficiency (lower the energy usage) of the overall system. This project would involve working with the contractor and controls engineer at UES to understand what does into developing the model, what are the keys aspects of optimizing the system/plants, and perhaps assisting with certain facets of the project. We would need to discuss this project with the company performing the optimization to insure they are agreeable to working with the students.
    5. Solar Farm 2.0 Operator Project: The operator of Solar Farm 2.0 committed to partnering with the university on education as it relates to solar power. If a student were particularly interested in a solar power project, we could setup a conversation with Sol Systems to inquire if there was something in particular they would work with a master student on. They are helping with an undergraduate sustainability class, so I am assuming they would be interested in working with a masters student, but I don’t have a specific project in mind at this time.
    6. Grid Reliability based on Increase Integration of Renewables into the Grid: Grid stability and reliability has been and will continue to be impacted significantly by the integration of more and more intermittent generation sources into the grid. This project would largely be research based to understand the nature of the issues that are being created, perhaps identifying the tipping point at which the % of intermittent resources will result in problems, and most importantly identify the steps that need to be taken to alleviate these issues.
    7. Power Plant Projects: Mike Larson did not have anything specific in mind but would be willing to generate a suitable topic based on student interest in this area.
    8. Study on Geothermal Use in Large Institutional Buildings at UIUC: We have investigated the use of geothermal on both large and smaller buildings on campus, and have not yet found compelling evidence the geothermal is a great option on our campus. This project would research the technology, it’s uses and applications, and the practicality of using it on our campus. The project could investigate large institutional projects that have included geothermal (Ball State and EPIC in Madison Wisconsin are two that come to mind), and assessing their viability on the UIUC campus.    
    9. Protection of our campus energy systems infrastructure from physical and cyber threats. Potential targets across campus include: Abbott Power Plant; electrical sub-stations, distribution center, and load centers; steam tunnels; high-pressure gas piping; domestic water piping system; chiller plants; storm sewer system; etc. We have had an increased frequency of malicious events across the country in recent times and this topic has been trending.
    10. Promoting, marketing, and selling a campus approach to investing in retro-commissioning and control system modernization/optimization. The University of Illinois F&S teams in UES have saved millions of dollars over many years by dedicating staff and financial resources in these areas. This type of project could give students the opportunity to learn the value of a career path in technical sales and the types of companies that utilize these type of staff members. A focus on developing high-level communication skills and strategic sales skills in conjunction with engineering education can be a lucrative path for some students.
  3. N-G Mailbag question: Output vs. expectations for UI solar farms

    Associated Project(s): 

    Hi, Steve. A News-Gazette Mailbag question for you:


    "The University of Illinois has 2 large solar farms near Savoy.  How are they doing compared to expectations?  What percentage of the UofI power do they provide?  Are there any plans for more? If so ... where and when will they be built?"



    (I rooted around a bit on the F&S energy/utility pages, and found a lot of info. Figured I'd best ask you, though, for the most current data.)



    Thank you,



    Hi Morgan/Mike/Tony,


    Do we have updated FY23 data that can be shared to answer the question about current output of both arrays as it relates to expected performance and the percentage of electrical demand?


    A similar question was answered in March 22', please see attached. I have addressed the second part with the below statement previously (let me know if there is any update is needed there as well or if that can be used again).


    The university is evaluating the potential procurement of additional clean energy through an off-campus virtual power purchase agreement to meet Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) goals.


    I would like to finalize the information and reply by Wednesday, October 4. Thanks for your help with this.


    Steve B.




    Here is the information being requested.  I would like Rob to have a chance to comment on the last sentence before you respond.


    Both Solar Farms are performing as expected.  Solar Farm 2.0 produced 99% of the vendor’s guaranteed production in the first two years of operation.  Solar Farm 1.0 produced 96% of estimated production over a two year period.  In FY23 the solar production was 6.6% of the campus electricity demand.  The University is considering another solar project, but the location and timing have not been determined yet.






    I would suggest that the final sentence state something such as: “While there are no immediate plans to add further solar capacity to the system, the University continues to evaluate and consider a multitude of carbon neutral energy solutions that would provide benefit to the Universities energy portfolio, including additional solar array capacity.”

    Rob Roman

  4. Solar Powered Trash Compactor question

    Hello my name is Saif Malik and I am a graduate student in the Energy Systems program. Some classmates and I are working with the Student Sustainability Committee on proposing 2 pairs of solar compactors to be set up by the main union. 

    I understand that in the past there was a compactor that broke down/ caused issues. I was hoping to get any information on this so we can look into if this is still viable or what improvements would be needed from what you encountered.

    Thank you for your time!

    Saif Malik


    Morgan, would you be able to assist with the below?


    Jerry Dinnin

  5. 8/3 Meeting to discuss location at Hope Village

    Associated Project(s): 

    Illinois Solar Decathlon President Rachel Chen met with Marty Smith to discuss the possibility of having the current next solar decathlon home built at the hope village project. Marty discussed possibilities for a separated subdivision of homes. But the more likely option would be to construct a library or community building than a single family home. Either of these options would be more likely during the next building cycle for solar decathlon.

  6. Status Update

    The following is an email conversation between Morgan White, Ahmed Hassan, and Johnathan Hasselbring.

    On Jul 6, 2023 Morgan sent the following:

    Hi Ahmed,

    Thanks for sending another email!  I meant to get back to you earlier, so thanks for the additional note.

    Jon, can you provide information to Ahmed about the current status of the geothermal system at CIF, or connect him with the appropriate people?

    Ahmed, please use this info to request the energy data access:

    The Energy Billing System (EBS) is a web-based software application that offers utility cost and consumption by month, building, and meter. It allows users to view current and historic information, compare buildings, and see trends over time. It requires Blue-Stem authorization and users must request access from F&S.




    Dear Morgan, 

    Thank you very much for the prompt response. Your contribution is highly appreciated. 

    Best Regards 



    Hi Ahmed,

    The geothermal system is in operation and coupled with a heat recovery chiller and radiant heating panels.

    Geothermal provides about 75% of the heating and cooling needs for the building, with the heat recovery chiller and radiant panels supplementing the remaining 25%.

    Please let me know what questions you might have, and I will gladly connect you with more members of the team.



  7. Solar Farm 3.0 possibilities on UIUC owned land?

    Associated Project(s): 

    Hi Geri and Anita,


    At the Sustainability Council, you said there are University-owned lands that could potentially support our Solar Farm 3.0 goals.  I think you said there is one possibility near UIS.  Is there another location, as well?


    I’d appreciate a description of the potential sites and locations, so we can talk with the energy consultant about those sites.






    The UIS farmland adjacent to that campus could be considered for a solar project.  Decisions pertaining to the development of a solar project at UIS would be done through that campus.  Our UIS contact is Chuck Coderko, Associate Vice Chancellor, Facilities and Services. There are approximately 256 total acres of which 235 are tillable acres (in crop production) managed by Ag Property Services   UIF has approximately 75 acres near the UIS campus as well.  UIF farmland is managed by Heartland Bank. 

    From my email exchange with Chuck, “several discussions with Springfield’s City Water Light & Power (CWLP), the sole provider of UIS’s electricity, who owns the lines/power grid. They are investing in solar in other areas of Illinois, and after several meetings, proposed ideas, etc., it appears they are not interested in what UIS would offer, and we would be on our own. But the city’s leadership changed a couple of months ago, and future opportunities may exist. Without CWLP or another partner, we would be generating electricity for the campus. We would also like to include other potential entities we could provide power to (Lincoln Land Community College, etc.), but we haven’t gotten that far.  We are looking for opportunities. As we currently stand, working through a P3 or Energy Service Company would be our most likely scenario, but much feasibility research will need to be done. UIS can’t bank a solar farm alone, and I am leery of levying a multi-million dollar debt on the university.”


    Ag Property Services manages farmland for the College of Engineering:

    Reifsteck Farm is located in Champaign County.  There are approximately 247 total acres of which 210 are tillable.  There are research projects on a portion the non-tillable areas. 

    VRO Farm is located in Vermilion County.  There are approximately 320 total acres of which 95 are tillable.  The farmland borders timber/woodland on two sides.  The Illinois Natural History Survey may be conducting research in the timber/woodland. 


    If you have additional questions, please let us know.


    Thank you,

    Anita Million

  8. FW: Solar Farm 3

    Associated Project(s): 


         I have attached a study that I did in 2020 for an on-campus Solar Farm 3, in case it is of use to you or anyone else.  The numbers have changed since 2020, of course, but it is likely that the conclusions of the study remain the same.  This study supports the comments I made to you about an on-campus Solar Farm 3 when we spoke last week.



    Attached Files: 
  9. Tracking/displaying Grind2Energy data.

    Associated Project(s): 

    Hi Thurman,


    A recurring topic that’s come up in our zero waste conversations has been the desire to track and display more metrics under the zero waste theme on the iCAP Portal. Grind2Energy data was one metric that was brainstormed, as it relates closely to our Zero Waste Objective 5.5, “Plan for organic waste.” Since Dining already tracks that data, it would be easy for us to get it up on the portal. Would this be something that you’d be in favor of us doing? If so, any input on how the data is displayed (by month, or annually)?


    Thank you,





    Hi Daphne,


    Fate has it that I will be seeing the Grind2Energy people tomorrow at the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago. I would like to see if this is something that can by automatically updated from our system. They may have some functionality for this and if not, it may be some thing they could create and would be a selling point for them. I will find out the possibilities. I would rather that this be auotmatic so that the data is always current and nobody can "drop the ball" along the way.    


    Assistant Director of Dining - Facilities and Equipment





  10. Intro to Invenergy Hydrogen Team

    Associated Project(s): 





    Invenergy, a leading sustainable energy developer based in Chicago, is developing clean hydrogen projects and would like to talk about your plans for campus decarbonization, especially as they related to CHP systems. Invenergy is also a leading member of the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2), which is submitting a strong proposal to the DOE for hydrogen hub funding—meaning their Midwest project may be receiving funds as early as January 2024. Jon Horek (VP of Hydrogen) would like to set up some time to hear your perspective and share more information about potential opportunities for collaboration.


    Hi Morgan,

    Please allow me to make an introduction to Jon and Nayeli at Invenergy.

    We had a meeting to talk about hydrogen for our facilities and they were interested in talking to others with large central plants (which we no longer have).

    You may already have efforts regarding hydrogen underway but wanted to make the introduction in case it can be beneficial.

    If nothing else, good to make connections and I hope everything is going well down at UofI.




    Hi Aaron, thanks for the intro.


    Nayeli and Jon, nice to meet you.  I am adding Rob Roman here, as he is the Director of Utilities and Energy Services for UIUC.






    Morgan, please disregard the email I just sent. I realized I had missed this message where you included Rob. It’s great to e-meet you both and sorry for the delay as I’m catching up after taking time off.


    We’d like to have an informal conversation to better understand if and how hydrogen might be helpful for your campus decarbonization plans (especially regarding campus energy and fleets). As mentioned, we expect to receive funding next year towards our clean hydrogen project in the Midwest.


    Would you be available for this chat this Friday sometime between 11:00 and 1:30?  


    Thank you,

     Nayeli Gallardo


    Morgan and Rob,


    Dropping Aaron now that he’s introduced us.


    Jon and I are still interested in setting up an intro call. Would this Friday afternoon between 2 and 4 work for you? Or perhaps next week?








    Morgan is out of the office this week. I would propose a meeting on 5/11/23 at 11AM. I do not know if Morgan is available, but it’s a start.




    Hi Rob,


    Thank you for letting me know. I’m happy to reserve a tentative time slot, which we can hopefully confirm once Morgan is back or we can move if necessary. Unfortunately, 11am on May 11th would be a bit tight for us. Below are other time slots that would work for us as of today. Does one of these work for you?


    Wed May 10: 11-noon, 3-4pm

    Thu May 11: 10-11am, 10:30-11:30am, 2:30-3:30pm

    Fri May 12: 10-11am, 2-3pm