In 1993, Eastern Illinois University’s coal burning facility was nearing the end of its life. Requests were started at the state level for capital to overhaul the plant. By the end of the 90s, EIU began looking at replacing the plant rather than rehabbing the current facility due to the rising deferred maintenance in the current plant.
Over the next five years, EIU conducted feasibility studies to evaluate the current plant and the potential replacement going forward. Meanwhile, the university continued to pursue state funding and also look for other options.
In 2006, the term limit for Energy Performance Contracts was extended to 20 years. EIU looked to see if this avenue could be utilized to fund the new plant. At the same time, climate change had moved to the forefront and support for coal was disappearing. EIU requested proposals for a performance contract to include the replacement of the steam plant. Several firms responded, with the successful firm (Honeywell International) proposing a biomass gassifier using a feedstock of wood chips.
The plant will have two biomass boilers and two backup natural gas/No. 2 fuel oil boilers. This will provide capacity to serve 100 percent of the campus steam load on the biomass boilers. Initially, the biomass boilers will be permitted to burn two-inch virgin hardwood chips. Once the plant is operational, EIU plans to test burn other fuels for additional permits. The plant will also contain a back-pressure steam turbine to provide co-generation of the steam load from one of the biomass boilers.
This plant will be located between McKinley Avenue and Edgar Avenue on Illinois Route 130. It is anticipated to be complete in 2011. Once the new plant is proven, the coal burning facility will be decommissioned. This plant is part of an $80 million guaranteed energy performance contract that contains 16 other energy conservation measures.
View our time lapse video here.
You can see pictures on our photo site.