A green gem in the East Central Illinois region is the new Renewable Energy Center at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. Switching from a coal-fired power plant, the new biomass-burning facility is a clear environmental improvement with an expected 80 percent reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions. This virtual tour shares many more details of the new center that puts EIU right at the heart of researching new means to renewable, sustainable energy sources.
The facility is based on gasification technology, which is a two-stage combustion process. In the first stage, fuel is heated to a high temperate in a low-oxygen environment, which creates synthetic natural gas. In the second stage, gas is captured and combined with additional oxygen to combust just like natural gas. In this two-stage process, there is a much lower incidence of carryover. It is a much cleaner burning process compared to coal burning, and the efficiency lost is only about 5 percent of the traditional natural gas process. Basically, it produces cleaner emissions for a small energy premium.
The Renewable Energy Center also has two 10-kilowatt solar panel grids on its South side that track and move with the sun.