Eastern Illinois University (EIU) and Honeywell have unveiled the school's Renewable Energy Center (REC), one of the largest university biomass installations in the country.
The REC is a 19,000-square-foot steam plant that will provide heat for buildings and classrooms across the university grounds. It is driven by two large biomass gasifiers that use wood chips from forest residue for fuel.
By switching to a renewable energy source, EIU will reduce annual 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 figures 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 program is expected to cut energy use on campus in half and carbon dioxide emissions by 80%. The facility is expected to pay for itself through the projected $140 million in energy savings over the next two decades - savings guaranteed through a 20-year performance contract with Honeywell.
The facility also boasts major educational benefits. The REC's dedicated classroom space and advanced technology displays are helping the university develop a Center for Clean Energy 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.