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Projects Updates for Biomass use on Campus

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  1. Final project reports for Fall 2017

    The CEE 398 Project Based Learning and the Sustainability Minor's ENVS 492 Capstone students completed their nine fall 2017 reports.

    There were five projects completed for capstone partners:

    1. Energy Dashboards for Accenture
    2. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for Johnson Controls
    3. Food Hub Study for The Land Connection
    4. Sensors and Green Buildings for CERL
    5. Biomass Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) for Chip Energy

    There were four other projects completed by CEE students:

    1. Rain Garden Design
    2. Solar and Green Roofs Analysis
    3. Food Waste to Energy
    4. ADA Sidewalk Repair Cost Analysis
  2. Biomass Boiler at Energy Farm

    Construction is underway in Fall 2016 to install a 200 kW biomass boiler at the Energy Farm. This system will initially satisfy all heating needs for the greenhouse onsite, and will replace the current propane heating system. In the future, more buildings may be added to the boiler system.

  3. EGEN SWATeam Meeting Notes (9.28.16)

    The EGEN SWATeam held their second meeting for the Fall 2016 semester. Topics covered include:

    • Review progress toward 2015 iCAP objectives
    • Review/Finalize poster for Campus Sustainability Celebration.
    • Identify 2nd faculty member for EGEN SWATeam
    • Exploring ideas for clean energy on campus.
  4. Our Budding Biomass Boiler

    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.

  5. BTUs and Costs of biomass vs Propane

    Associated Project(s): 
    1. Propane contains 91,333 BTU’s per gallon @ current price of $0.7858 per gallon = $8.60 / MBTU
    2. Miscanthus contains 14MBTU’s per ton @ proposed price of $50/ton = $3.57/MBTU

    Propane is 2.4 times more expensive to burn to achieve the same amount of thermal energy.

    ~Mike Marquissee, F&S Utilites and Energy Services

  6. Biomass Consultation Group

    Dear Energy Enthusiasts,

    Thanks to all who attended the first Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) biomass meeting, we are off with a strong start. This week we we will have the second consultation group meeting to carry on discussion and orient goals toward improving sustainability on campus. 

    Dong Kook will present on the most recent publications from the research group of Praveen Kumar in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. His topic for discussion will be Threshold Dynamics in Soil Carbon Storage for Bioenergy Crops. Click (here) to become familiar with their group's work.   

    We are gathering all interested persons to discuss the possibilities for a large-scale biomass facility that could eventually replace Abbott Power Plant. All ideas are welcome. Please pass this invitation on to anyone you think might be interested.



    Meeting details:

    Time: Tuesday, November 18 from 1:00pm-2:30pm

    Location: iSEE Conference room #358

                     National Soybean Research Center (directions here)

                     1101 W. Peabody Drive

                     Urbana, IL 61801


    Thanks and have a great weekend.


    Nathan Wells

  7. resource about using wood for energy

    Associated Project(s): 

    There are some environmental advocates who oppose using wood chips for energy. 

    This YouTube video includes the following description: "Forests are also one of our best defenses against global warming, absorbing vast amounts of carbon pollution out of the air. But power companies are increasingly proposing to burn whole trees for energy. Trees are not a "carbon neutral" fuel source. Just like coal, when trees are burned in power plants, the carbon they have accumulated over long periods of time is released into the atmosphere. Unlike coal, however, trees will continue to absorb carbon if left alone. So burning forests for energy not only emits a lot of carbon, but also degrades our carbon sinks. This video shows what happens to the balance of carbon between and forest and the atmosphere when we burn forests to produce energy instead of leaving them standing to continue to absorb and store carbon. Burning forests for electricity is dirty and destructive!" 

    It is shared by the Natural Resources Defence Council.

  8. Abbott Power Plant biomass permit in review

    Associated Project(s): 

    F&S Energy Services met to review the biomass permit for Abbott Power Plant.  This allows Abbott Power Plant to do test burns with various biomass fuels as a mixture with the coal in the existing coal stoker boilers.  The first tests will be using wood chips, and they may happen in May or they may wait until the cold weather months when the coal assets are brought back online for winter.

  9. Anaerobic Digester progress

    Associated Project(s): 

    The scope for an anaerobic digester with a methane capture at the Beef and Sheep Facility on South Farms has been completed and the project will be opened for a Quality Based Selection of an appropriate engineering firm.

  10. Biogasification power plant talk

    Associated Project(s): 

    F&S met with representatives from the Center for Neighborhood Sustainability to continue discussion of potentially building a biogasification power plant off campus for production of biogas as an alternative fuel for power generation for campus.