UI enters era of biomass expansion
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The University of Iowa will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its award-winning oat hulls project later this fall, and what better way to mark the occasion than to introduce a new source of alternative energy?
Locally sourced wood chips will be used to help provide power, steam, and chilled water to the University of Iowa campus. Photo by UI Facilities Management
The unique and innovative process of co-firing oat hulls as fuel to produce energy for the campus has helped the university displace 183,225 tons of coal and avoid over 408,005 metric tons of CO2 emissions (equivalent to annual greenhouse gas emissions from 85,001 passenger vehicles).
Building on the success of the oat hulls project and marking a new era in biomass expansion at the UI, operators in the main power plant began co-firing locally sourced wood chips on Monday, Aug. 20. The wood chips were harvested earlier this year from dead and dying non-native conifer trees at Kent Park, just west of Iowa City. More than 3,000 tons of the wood chips are now available to be used as an additional fuel source to help provide power, steam, and chilled water to the UI campus.
The wood chips are mixed with coal at a nearby facility and delivered as a blend for co-firing in the two solid fuel boilers at the main power plant. Plant operators will continue to increase the percentage of wood chips over time as they monitor boiler performance to determine the optimal blend.
Through partnerships involving Facilities Management, the Office of Sustainability, and the College of Engineering, the university is studying and developing other locally sourced biomass alternatives. Earlier this year a 16-acre plot of Miscanthus x giganteus (a perennial grass) was planted on a farm near Muscatine, Iowa, as part of a biomass feasibility study, and recent improvements to the Oakdale Renewable Energy Plant at the UI Research Park were made with the goal of operating that campus on 100 percent renewable energy.
The UI has set a goal to achieve 40 percent renewable energy as part of its 2020 Sustainability Vision.