I love to see America's universities taking a lead in environmental awareness and sustainability, so I was thrilled to hear about the University of Iowa's biomass project. For the past few years, the university has worked with a local Quaker Oats plant to replace the burning of coal with the burning of oat hulls, which are a waste product from the Quaker Oats factory.
About 60 tons of discarded oat hulls from Quaker Oats are delivered daily to the UI power plant, and this organic material is burned with coal to produce energy for the school. The oat hulls fuel 15 percent of the school’s total energy, generating nearly nine million kilowatt-hours of biomass power annually. This is equal to the amount of energy needed to power 900 average American homes annually.
Thanks to the use of the oat hulls, the university has reduced its emissions by seven percent already, equalling a reduction of 70,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year and 30,000 tons of coal per year, which isn't burned. Ferman Milster, associate utility director, says that the decision to move to oat hulls was easy. “I immediately recognized that burning biomass material has a very positive environmental impact and I saw an opportunity to reduce the University’s purchased-energy costs. Plus, the money we pay for that fuel material stays in Iowa."
You can watch a video documenting the project, as well as the University of Iowa's other green measures, when you