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Farewell to fossil fuels: UI announces campus will be coal-free by 2025

The University of Iowa Power Plant is expected to remove coal from its energy arsenal by 2025.

All it took was a 65-word press release to sum up a move requiring years of planning for the University of Iowa, as the campus in Iowa City announced Monday it will be coal-free by 2025.

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld made the announcement, a press release reading: “In 2025, we expect to have diminished our reliance on coal to the point it is no longer included in our fuel portfolio. The university will continue to pursue and develop its innovative renewable energy program to ensure an abundant supply of alternative sources of energy. It’s the right choice for our students and our campus, and it’s the surest path to an energy-secure future.”

The university has already reduced coal usage, on track to 40 percent renewable energy use by the year 2020.

Erin Hazen, the renewable energy business development manager for the University of Iowa's Facilities Management, said this decision will reduce the university's dependency on coal to the point where "we're not going to order it anymore."

The campus will replace coal with biomass -- organic renewable energy -- in various forms to ensure a "diverse fuel portfolio" according to Hazen.

This includes oat hulls, wood chips, green energy pellets, and an energy grass known as Miscanthus, developed by the university in partnership with Iowa State University.

While moving to renewable energy tends to come with a hefty cost, the university's transition will be cost-neutral, as the power plant's solid-fuel boilers will be converted to use biomass (rather than building brand new, custom boilers).

Hazen said the way this feat is being accomplished is "blazing a trail," one she said will keep more money in Iowa as coal is purchased outside the state while the renewable resources can be obtained locally.

Campus officials describe this as the next big step in reducing the university's carbon footprint.

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