The University of Iowa Biomass Fuel Project
- Signup for our Biomass Fuel Project newsletter - click here.
- Webinar presentation on UI Biomass Fuel Project, September 3, 2013
2012 Biomass Fuel Project Report
This 18-page report summarizes progress on the biomass fuel project through 2012. Download here.
The biomass fuel project exists to support the 2020 Sustainability Vision - Task 2. The task requires us to green our energy portfolio and achieve 40% renewable energy by 2020. Replacing coal with biomass is central to our strategy.
- The solid fuel boilers at the Main Power Plant transition from coal to biomass.
- The biomass fuel project procures renewable energy produced in the local area.
- Buying solid fuel locally has the potential to return over $10,000,000 annually to the local rural economy.
- Maintain the ability to burn coal at the Main Power Plant, now and into the foreseeable future. In the event of an interruption in renewable fuel supplies, being able to burn coal will assure the Main Power Plant is able to fully utilize all existing solid fuel steam production capacity.
- Develop a diverse renewable fuel portfolio, not dependent on one type or source.
- Minimize modification to systems and equipment at the Main Power Plant. This implies a need to process and modify (e.g. densify, dry) renewable fuels to have physical characteristics more like coal, so they will flow through existing Main Power Plant fuel handling and storage systems.
- Minimize renewable fuel cost related utility rate increases by developing renewable energy fuel supplies that have the potential to deliver fuel to the Main Power Plant at an average cost of $5.00 per MMBtu.
- Prevent adverse impact (price shock) to existing local agricultural markets.
Area of Interest
Biomass is more costly than coal to transport. We are striving to procure biomass at a delivered cost of $5.00 per MMBtu (million British Thermal Units). This is about the average cost of coal. By looking within an area of 50-miles from Iowa City will help lower the transportation cost associated with biomass fuel.
Sustainability and the Biomass Fuel Project
Three fundamental principles of sustainability (economic, social, and environmental) are incorporated in our biomass fuel project development process. It is important to design and implement a project which results in a working demonstration of how we can procure renewable energy for the University’s utility system, while simultaneously improving the performance of Iowa lands (soil, water, wildlife habitat), benefiting the people that live and work in our local area, and improving environmental performance of our energy systems.
Sources of biomass fuel include:
Biomass Fuel Pricing Strategy
The table below shows examples of the delivered price of 'ready to burn' biomass at the Main Power Plant. These prices are calculated to give an energy cost of $5.00 per MMBtu (million British Thermal Units), which is comparable to our current coal costs.
|Biomass examples||Moisture content||Heat Value Btu/lb||$/ton @ $5.00/MMBtu||Tons equal to 2020 goal|
|Expired Corn Seeds||12%||7,000||$70.00||116,000|
|Poplar wood chips||47%||4,500||$45.00||181,000|
|Reed canary grass||9%||7,100||$71.00||115,000|
- Kent Park project video done by UITV: YouTube
- Biomass Partnership Project Update - January 2012 YouTube
- Sustainable Systems Class Spring 2012 Timber Stand Improvement
- Oat hull biomass fuel project: UI Halftime Feature
- Miscanthus demonstration plants: YouTube video
Presentations and additional project information
- Biomass - Your Third Crop, from the March 19, 2013 Biomass Crop Production Workshop at the Johnson County Extension
- Fuel Yard - a team of senior engineering students spent two semesters preparing a conceptual design of a fuel yard. The purpose of this project was to fulfill their engineering curricula requirements and present a fuel yard concept that could be used to kick start a more detailed study/plan for such a facility. Their report consists of a PowerPoint presentation and a Final Report. Facilities Management is planning to study the fuel yard concept in begining in 2015.
- Green Power Initiative - US Departmernt of Energy project abstract, final report, and peer review presentation.
- 2013 College of Engineering Program for Enhanced Design Experience (PEDE) Fuel Yard Project (PowerPoint Report)
Presentation to Iowa City Sunrise Optimists, January 15, 2013 - Our Uncertain Energy Future, Ferman Milster, Office of Sustainability
Presentations to BioCycle Conference, October 2012
The University of Iowa Biomass Fuel Project - Ferman Milster, Office of Sustainability
Flood Mitigation via Growth of Perennial Energy Crops - Dr. Nathan Young, Iowa Flood Center
- Summer 2012 student project
- Biomass Brochure
- Timber stand improvement video student project - spring 2012.
- 2012 report on the biomass fuel project
Miscanthus Pilot Project
Miscanthus pilot project field photos:
July 31, 2013 Potential Miscanthus Grower Meeting:
- Meeting PowerPoint presentation
- Pilot miscanthus planting presentation
- New Energy Farms presentation
- Video of Pilot Miscanthus Plot planting
Contact us for questions or to request a presentation.
We are interested in hearing from you. Comments and questions on our project are welcome. We are striving to make the project transparent and share what we are learning with others. We will be delighted to give a presentation to your group or class about our project.
Email contact form
Ferman Milster, P.E., Principal Engineer - Renewables
University of Iowa Office of Sustainability
1680 University Capital Centre
Iowa City, IA 52242-5500