How would you like to save 6.2 million kWh annually while using a renewable fuel source? Take a cue from the Eastern Illinois University (EIU) and its Renewable Energy Center. In operation since 2011, this biomass facility has reduced energy use by 50% and carbon emissions by 80% over the old coal-fired plant. The plant is expected to generate $140 million dollars in savings over the next 20 years.
When the original 1928 power facility was at the end of its life, the university took the opportunity to find a more sustainable replacement. Partnering with Honeywell International, an $80 million performance contract secured the necessary funds for the new plant. By rerouting the savings from other campus-wide efficiency projects, this funding option ensured that neither students nor taxpayers would bear the costs.
With a price tag around $55 million, Eastern’s Renewable Energy Center houses four boilers. Two burn biomass, such as wood chips and switchgrass, and the others use natural gas with a fuel oil backup. EIU’s campus energy needs can be met by running any two of the four boilers.
The plant is also designed for fuel flexibility through its gasifiers. With a traditional combustion boiler, the fuel sources must generally be the same in moisture, size and density. Because it isn’t a direct combustion facility, these gasifiers can accept more variations in the fuel source.
The Renewable Energy Center is the first solid fuel power plant registered with USGBC and earned LEED Platinum for New Construction.