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Project Updates for collection: Renewable Energy Projects


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  1. SSC Funding Request & Approval for ECE Lobby Displays

    On February 28, 2021, Catherine Somers sent out an email to Professors Bruce Hajek and Philip Krein regarding the ECE lobby displays. As written in the exciting email:

    "I have a bit of good news!  The Student Sustainability Committee-funded lobby display which will eventually have interactive features to encourage energy savings, is taking shape.  The kiosks and the touchscreen panel are installed and rotating informational slides.  Joyce Mast continues to make excellent progress on the real-time display of solar energy production." -Catherine Somers

    This approval follows suit after the Mast's submitted application for SSC funding for the lobby displays. In Step 2 of the funding application, $30,000 was requested from the SSC for "Electrical and Computer Engineering Building (ECEB) Interactive, Energy Education/Production/Use Display."

    See the attached file to view the SSC funding application.

  2. International Renewable Energy Agency

    The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform for international cooperation, a centre of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy. IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, including bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind energy in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity.


  3. Newsgazette Mailbag about campus renewables

    Renewable energy at the UI "How much power is each of the renewable (University of Illinois) sources generating? How many houses can each provide power for? Are there plans to add more than what we currently have? How many years does it take for the cost of each to be paid off? We have a growing interest in this and many homes now also have this."

    Morgan White, the UI's associate director of Facilities & Services for sustainability, has all your answers.

    As for power generation, she said that the UI's "on-campus solar arrays are now capable of producing over 25,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) per year and we purchase an additional 25,000 MWh/year from an off-campus wind farm in Illinois.

    "For a more comprehensive answer:

    "The (Illinois Climate Action Plan) 2020, objective 2.3.1 is: 'Use at least 140,000 MWh/year of clean power by FY25.' This objective is about clean power, which is different from clean thermal energy. As of 2020, there are three types of clean power options being pursued or used on campus.

    "1. Solar Energy on Campus: installing solar photovoltaic panels on campus property

    "2. Wind Energy on Campus: installing wind turbine generators on campus property

    "3. Power Purchase Agreements for Clean Energy: purchasing solar or wind power from off-campus

    "FYI, Solar Farm 2.0 is projected to produce 20,000,000 kWh/year. It began production at the end of January, so there will only be 5 of 12 months production in the FY21 totals (this current fiscal year)."

    As for the number of houses each can provide power for, White said, "At Facilities & Services, we use the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) for the average power use in an American home. It currently says, 'In 2019, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,649 kilowatthours (kWh).”

    "Thus, the FY20 clean power use on campus (30,635,993 kWh) was the equivalent of the power needed for 2,876 houses. Once Solar Farm 2.0 is operating for an entire year, that will be about 50,000,000 kWh/year of clean power use on campus, which is the equivalent to the power needed for 4,717 houses."

    And about whether more generation will be added, she said: "The recently released Illinois Climate Action Plan 2020 (iCAP 2020) includes a goal for increasing clean power use to 140,000 MWh/year by FY25. We are currently having internal discussions at the University of Illinois about initiating a large off-campus solar power purchase agreement to meet this goal. We are also continuing to pursue clean thermal energy solutions, such as geothermal. Additionally, large construction projects on campus are required by the state law to be LEED certified, and this will often entail the addition of clean energy systems for individual buildings."

    The payback period for each of these systems varies widely due to several factors, she said.

    "For example, the geothermal system for the Campus Instructional Facility is projected to pay for itself in 28 years, while Solar Farm 2.0 is saving money in year one," said White. "For local projects off-campus these programs are very helpful: the Solar Urbana-Champaign program typically finds solar installations to pay for themselves in six or seven years, and the Geothermal Urbana-Champaign program typically finds a geothermal system at a residential home can pay for itself within 10 years."

  4. News-Gazette mailbag note about MEB solar

    Associated Project(s): 

    South facade at Lu building  "At the new Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building at the northwest corner of Green and Goodwin, Urbana, the south façade has an intriguing glass — perhaps with embedded solar panels or something like that? What is the product, and what is it's purpose?"

    Your answer comes from engineer Damon McFall, director of facilities and operations in Mechanical Science & Enegineering.

    "The embedded solar panels are referred to as building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) panels. This approach utilized on a larger scale can help contribute to the societal goal of achieving net-positive facilities or buildings that produce more energy than they consume," said McFall. "The use of BIPV panels on the Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building will serve as an educational tool for students and faculty to understand the benefits and challenges of integrating solar into the façade of a facility.

    "A core imperative for the building was to be a leader in innovation. Thus, the idea to include BIPV was supported by Mechanical Science and Engineering Professor Ty Newell. The project is a first on campus and possibly the only installation of its kind nationally. The state-of-the-art panels have already provided research opportunities to designers, builders, and others.

    "The goal is for students, community members, and guests to learn more about BIPV in campus, commercial, and government facilities and pursue building design and construction that meets the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building and Community Challenges ( Once the facility opens this summer, tours will be offered where the public can learn more about the technology."

  5. discussion with Morgan and Joyce

    Associated Project(s): 

    Joyce Mast from ECE and Morgan White from F&S met today to review the status of the ECE Net Zero Energy Certification efforts.  Joyce is going to review the open questions Morgan sent earlier this year, and reach out to the Living Futures folks to clarify whether we can pursue the certification for calendar year 2020 using solar power produced in calendar year 2021 from Solar Farm 2.0.  Morgan is going to find a student in the sustainability circles to help complete this paperwork and have her intern calculate the total energy consumption for ECE from calendar year 2020, using EBS data.

  6. Local Solar projects shared at CCNet brownbag

    CCNet hosted several local solar panelists in January 2021. This Zoom meeting was also shared via Facebook Live:

    Join the CCNet mailing list to gain access to the Zoom and stay connected.

    (video link corrected on 2-2-2021)

  7. equipment installed

    The geothermal heat pump is now installed at the Gable Home, at the Energy Farm. Professor Yun Yi will create an energy model, and Mark Taylor said, "I can work with one of my RA’s to draw up the system in a 3D model for use in presentations and papers."

    The model is the “QE0930.” 

  8. archived info - previous project description and background, pre iCAP 2020

    Associated Project(s): 


    The 2015 iCAP, chapter 3, objective 3, is "Expand the purchase of clean energy. By FY20, obtain at least 120,000 MWh, and by FY25 at least 140,000 MWh from low-carbon energy sources. These targets represent 48% and 56% of our expected 2050 electricity demand, respectively." There are several methods for increasing campus clean energy use: on-campus renewable energy generation (such as the Solar Farm), off-campus power purchase agreements (such as the Wind PPA), the purchase of Renewable Energy Certifications (such as the FY15 RECs purchase), and clean energy provided through the grid purchased electricity (see MISO).


    Generate Renewable Energy On-Campus

    Renewable energy on campus is one of the most important clean energy sources. Solar farm is the main project, geothermal is a promising method, combined with biomass, etc., the proportion of renewable energy is increasing.

    Enter into Power Purchase Agreements

    A power purchase agreement (PPA) is a contract with an energy generation facility. A long-term PPA with a renewable energy generation facility could enable the construction of new renewable energy generation. At the time of this writing, the most economical renewable PPAs are for wind energy from large farms of wind turbines, but we expect that other types of renewable PPAs may become affordable in the future.

    Although nuclear power is not considered renewable, an existing nuclear power plant produces no carbon dioxide emissions and can help us meet our emissions goals. A PPA with a nuclear power plant would enable us to purchase energy from a zero-carbon source.

    Buy Renewable Energy Certificates

    Electrical output from both renewable and nonrenewable power sources are combined in a regionaltransmission grid. In order for a consumer to claim the use of renewable energy, it must own the associated Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), each of which represents the environmental attributes of 1 MWh of renewable electricity generation.

    Only the owners of RECs can claim that they are using renewable energy. For example, if a wind farm operator sells its electricity to one party but sells the associated RECs to a second party, only the second party can claim to be using green energy. To qualify as renewable, any energy the campus purchases must be bundled with RECs, and the campus must retain the RECs for any renewable energy it produces. Therefore, the forthcoming Solar Farm will count toward our renewable energy goals only so long as campus does not sell the associated RECs.

    Another method to increase our use of renewable energy is to separately purchase “unbundled” RECs, without purchasing power from the same generation source. For example, we could purchase power from a coal plant, but purchase a corresponding number of RECs from a wind farm (in this case, the wind farm would sell its electricity without the environmental attributes to a customer who is not willing to pay for the environmental attributes). The purchase of unbundled RECs reduces our carbon footprint according to generally accepted carbon accounting procedures, but it is not clear if it adds renewable energy to the grid.

    In 2015, there was exceptionally low demand for RECs in our local grid region because there are no effective government standards requiring the purchase of renewable electricity. At the same time, a significant number of wind farms have been built and are profitable even without selling RECs (due in large part to a federal tax credit for wind production), leading to a very large supply of RECs. Given the low demand and the oversupply, prices for RECs are very low, and therefore it is not clear that the purchase of RECs really provides an incentive for generators to produce more renewable electricity, or that it leads to an actual reduction in overall global CO2 emissions.

    When unbundled RECs are purchased as part of a long-term contract, this can facilitate the construction of new renewable energy generation facilities. Long-term RECs contracts would also have the economic advantage of “locking in” the current low prices. Conversely, the voluntary purchase of short-term unbundled RECs from existing facilities does not add new renewable energy to the grid. For these reasons, the campus would have a greater environmental impact by purchasing long-term RECs contracts, either bundled with renewable energy in a PPA, or unbundled.

    Low-Carbon Grid Purchased Electricity

    Approximately half of the campus electrical demand is purchased through the MISO grid.  In FY15, the grid purchased electricity included over 10% from low-carbon sources.  Because the RECs are not included when campus buys the energy, it is unclear who can claim the use of that clean energy.  With the new energy bill passed in 2017, there are changes to the requirements for campus’ participation in the Renewable Portfolio Standard.  As these requirements and associated benefits of low-carbon energy in the grid become clarified, it may be determined that the grid’s clean energy can be included in the total campus clean energy usage.

  9. archived info - previous project description, pre iCAP 2020

    Associated Project(s): 

    Assuming that our conservation efforts will cut our energy needs in half, we will have to find ways to produce and/or purchase roughly 250,000 MWh/yr of electricity and 250,000 MWh/yr of heat in a carbon-neutral manner.  Campus has made good progress in reducing GHG emissions since FY08, largely due to improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings.  Looking ahead, we expect to see continued reductions due to improvements in energy efficiency and additional energy conservation efforts.  However, in order to achieve zero GHG emissions, it is also necessary to change the way we generate, distribute, and purchase power.

  10. 12/18 Zero Waste SWATeam Meeting

    Attached are the meeting minutes from the Zero Waste SWATeam on 12/18/2020. The following agenda items were discussed:

    • Grind2Energy Additional Scope.
    • NERC membership.
    • Mask Terracycle Program.
    • Organics Master Plan.
    • Vending Machine Single-Use Plastics Replacement.
    • Mitigating single-serve options in third-party vendors in Union.
    • Reusable dining operations during COVID.
    • Reuse of Surplus Goods.
    • Battery Recycling Options.
    • Purchasing Order Fufillment: Sustainable Options.
    • Purchasing Sustainability Digital Booklet.
    • Food Waste Reduction Webinar Engagement Opportunity.
    • Sustainability Integrations within punch-out catalogues/iBUY.
  11. Funding Award: Living Lab Platform for CIF geothermal

  12. Re-Home Wall Rehab and Siding