College Planning & Management

JUN 2012

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Page 105 of 107

Trends in Green SUSTAINABLE INNOVATIONS ON CAMPUS Burning Cleaner and Greener Eastern Illinois University switches from coal, natural gas, and fuel oil to biomass. E ASTERN ILLINOIS UNIVER SITY (EIU) HAD an aging, rapidly failing central plant. Primarily a coal-burning operation, the plant's backup boilers also burned natural gas and fuel oil. Feasibility studies showed a cost of upwards of $150M for a replacement coal facility, and coal's ever-growing list of environmental downfalls had made it a less-than-attractive energy source. With those factors in mind, it became clear an alternative fuel source was the best option. A new biomass-burning facility, with a price tag in the neighborhood of $55M, became EIU's new plan. Under the umbrella of an $80M performance contract, ground was broken in 2009 for the new facility. EIU's old steam plant burned its last coal on Dec. 14, 2010, and the grand opening of the new facility, the Renewable Energy Center (REC), was celebrated on Oct. 7, 2011 in a ceremony held on EIU's Charleston campus for students, faculty, and the broader Charleston community. Specs for the REC The REC is a 19,000-sq.-ft. steam plant that will provide heat for buildings and classrooms across the University's grounds. The REC is driven by two large biomass gasifi ers — the fi rst applica- tion of this technology in Illinois and the surrounding region — that use wood chips from forest residue for fuel. By switching to a renewable energy source, EIU will reduce an- nual carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 20,000 metric tons, which is equivalent to removing more than 3,600 cars from the road, according to fi gures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The new plant is one piece of a comprehensive energy- and environmental-conservation program that also includes a variety of upgrades to other University facilities and infrastructure. The product of close collaboration between EIU and Honeywell, the REC — and the overall program — are expected to cut energy use on campus in half and carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent. To heat the campus, a material-handling system at the plant delivers wood chips to the biomass gasifi ers, where they are broken down in a heated, oxygen-deprived chamber, creating a synthetic gas that burns similar to natural gas. The gas is then used to fi re high-effi ciency boilers, which results in more complete combus- tion and lower emissions and gives EIU a carbon-neutral solution for heating its facilities. The gasifi ers will consume an estimated 27,000 tons of wood per year, replacing the more than 10,000 tons of coal burned 82 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / JUNE 2012 annually by EIU's existing plant, which will be decommissioned and repurposed for other University needs. The REC also features a backpressure turbine that is powered by superheated steam from one of the boilers to generate elec- tricity, as well as two ground-mounted solar arrays. The turbine and arrays will provide other sources of renewable energy for the University and generate almost 3,000,000 kWh of electricity per year — enough to power, on average, 250 homes. The REC facility will more than pay for itself through the pro- jected $140M in energy savings over the next two decades — sav- ings that are guaranteed through a 20-year performance contract with Honeywell. An Educational Component The facility will also have a major educational benefi t. The REC's dedicated classroom space and advanced technology dis- plays are helping the University to develop a Center for Clean En- ergy Research and Education (CENCERE) to provide EIU students and faculty extensive opportunities for clean-energy research. The University also offers a new academic minor in sustainability, and is in the process of adding a master's degree in renewable energy. "This facility is a symbol of Eastern Illinois University's com- mitment to our campus and environment, and demonstrates our willingness to take a progressive step toward sustainability," says Bill Perry, president of Eastern Illinois University. "Operating our campus with a renewable resource allows us to show that cleaner energy options are both practical and fi scally responsible. This will not only impact our operations, but perme- ate into our curriculum as well." Benefi ts Across Campus Along with the steam plant, the broader, $80M program in- cludes energy- and water-effi ciency upgrades across campus. EIU fi nanced the work and is using the subsequent savings to pay for the improvements. As a result, the program will not place a burden on the University's budget, nor require additional taxpayer dollars or student fees. "EIU is now one of the leading examples of what's possible when an organization takes a long-term, strategic approach to energy and the environment," says Paul Orzeske, president of Honeywell Building Solutions. "This is innovation with a clear purpose in mind, and the entire campus and community benefi ts as a result." CPM WWW.PLANNING4EDUCATION.COM

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