ISTC Technical Assistance Program collaborates with Forest Preserves of Cook County on Clean Energy Framework

Forest Preserves of Cook County Clean Energy Framework cover

ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (Forest Preserves) have a history of working together to improve sustainability. In 2014, the Forest Preserves, a public agency responsible for protecting and preserving nearly 70,000 acres of natural areas and public open space, engaged TAP to evaluate the current state of materials management operations, assess opportunities for improvement, and take steps toward making the Forest Preserves a national leader, among similar organizations, in waste reduction practices. The success of that project led the Forest Preserves to engage TAP to assist in developing and implementing their Sustainability and Climate Resiliency Plan, which was released in September 2018. That plan hinged upon an overall goal to reduce the Forest Preserves’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050 from a 2016 baseline. It also identified a road map for Forest Preserve lands to be resilient in a changing climate, recognizing that such conditions will significantly impact land management operations as the range and distribution of species shift, along with the availability of water and other key aspects of the local ecosystem.

On January 22, 2019, in response to a United Nations International Panel on Climate Change report, which demonstrated that the consequences of man-made climate change will become irreversible in 12 years if global carbon emissions are not immediately and dramatically reduced, the Forest Preserves of Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted a Net Zero Resolution. This resolution revised the 80% GHG emissions reduction goal to net-zero by 2050, as well as reducing facility GHG emissions by 45% by 2030 and committing to the development of a renewable energy plan. 

TAP is currently working with the Forest Preserves on updating their Sustainability & Climate Resiliency Plan accordingly, while simultaneously assisting with the implementation of previously identified objectives and strategies to achieve their ambitious GHG reduction goals.

The most recent result of this collaboration is the development of a Clean Energy Framework, modeled after the Cook County Energy Plan. The Forest Preserves of Cook County Clean Energy Framework documents existing conditions through a needs assessment and review of current initiatives. Further, it prioritizes renewable energy technologies and strategies which the Forest Preserves might employ and creates a roadmap to achieving the Forest Preserves’ 2030 and 2050 goals. A Net Zero Emissions implementation schedule is presented, and the relationships between the Clean Energy Framework objectives and the objectives of the broader Sustainability & Climate Resiliency Plan are outlined.

Within the Framework it is noted that to actualize the goals and strategies outlined, energy conservation and efficiency of the many existing facilities must be prioritized and continuously pursued to reduce the existing operational footprint of the Forest Preserves. On a parallel course, the concept of green building must be thoroughly explored, redefined, and codified to embody building operations, ecosystem services, and renewable energy generation, fully encompassing the Preserves’ values of environmental stewardship and fostering human well-being in any building upgrade or new building project. Simultaneously, the Forest Preserves must aggressively pursue vetting, selecting and ongoing implementation of on-site renewable energy systems, coupled with collaborative pursuit, in partnership with Cook County, of a large-scale renewable energy installation, and sourcing of RECs to account for any emissions balances.

Principal authors of the Framework include Anthony D. Tindall, Policy & Sustainability Manager of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, along with April Janssen Mahajan, Joy Scrogum, Savannah Feher, and Shantanu Pai of TAP. Jennifer Martin of TAP was also among the advisors for the report.

The Clean Energy Framework was finalized in May 2021 and adopted by the Forest Preserves’ Board of Commissioners in June 2021. The Framework is available for download at https://fpdcc.com/downloads/plans/FPCC-Clean-Energy-Framework-071221.pdf.

For more information on the ISTC Technical Assistance Program, see http://go.illinois.edu/techassist.

 

ISTC Technical Assistance Program launches new webpages

TAP homepage

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) has a new web presence. You may now find information on TAP at https://go.illinois.edu/techassist.

TAP makes companies and communities more competitive and resilient with sustainable business practices, technologies, and solutions. TAP works at the intersection of industry, science, and government to help organizations achieve profitable, sustainable results.

The new website makes it easier to find information on TAP programs, services, and projects. Visitors can sign up for free site visits or learn about fee-for-service opportunities to engage our sustainability experts. Any Illinois organization, business, manufacturing facility, institute of higher learning, government entity, public utility, or institution may request one free site visit (per location) at no cost to the facility.

General inquiries may be addressed to istc-info@illinois.edu. You may also reach out to specific TAP team members for assistance in their areas of expertise.

New DOE-funded projects set to design energy storage systems for power plants

It is challenging to integrate renewable resources into the distribution grid of fossil-fueled power plants when energy is most needed. The results are often intermittent and unpredictable, which makes it difficult to match energy demand with supply.

In three new U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded projects, scientists in the Prairie Research Institute will design systems and explore the feasibility of combining the use of renewable and fossil energy sources to ensure both short and long-term reliability in electric power delivery.

A natural gas energy storage system

In a three-year project, scientists at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) will design a 10 MWh compressed natural gas energy storage (CNGES) system at the University of Illinois’ Abbott Power Plant, which uses oil and coal to power campus.

Electrically powered compressors are used in CNGES to raise the pressure of natural gas during off-peak hours. Natural gas is then stored in cylinders or in an underground pipeline.

During peak-demand hours, the stored gas is discharged through an expander-generator to partially recover the electricity used in the compression step. The chemical energy stored in the natural gas is integrated with fossil fuels to provide peak power using existing compressors and pipelines.

“The project, which will demonstrate the benefits to the power plant, energy grid, and the environment, will advance the CNGES technology towards commercial use,” said Kevin OBrien, who is principal investigator for this project and leads ISTC. Some of the benefits include reduced fuel costs, carbon emissions, and maintenance. It also increases plant efficiency.

The CNGES technology has not yet been tested with fossil fuels. Once the project is complete, findings will aid in understanding the advantages and challenges of integrating energy storage with coal and natural gas fired power plants.

DOE awarded $200,000 for the $250,000 project. The co-principal investigator is Mohamed Attalla, executive director of the U of I Facilities and Services.

Compressed air storage

A team of geologists at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS), along with engineers and power plant specialists, are designing a compressed air energy storage system that will increase the reliability of renewable energy from solar and wind farms and integrate the system with the Abbott fossil fuel power plant. DOE awarded $200,000 for the project, with a total budget of more than $250,000.

Compressed air energy storage (CAES) is a technology used to store compressed air in the subsurface sedimentary strata so that when the high-pressure air is returned to the surface it powers turbines to produce additional electricity as needed during power interruptions from severe weather or fossil fuel disruptions. The team plans to design an integrated system to store compressed air and thermal heat generated by compression underground.

Part of the project will involve evaluating the capability of sandstone aquifers to quickly release air to run turbine generators and determining the equipment needed to remove residual saline water to avoid corrosion in the system. The team will also quantify the storage capacity and evaluate this method for storing air and heat in the subsurface.

Heat dissipation during air compression has been considered an important factor in CAES energy capture efficiency, so researchers will evaluate the captured heat that is stored in the porous reservoirs with the compressed air, while determining other factors such as air speeds and the volume of formation water. The project team will also determine how much of the injected air remains in the formation during the recovery period.

“CAES has been geographically limited to areas with caverns created from subsurface salt deposits,” said Hannes Leetaru, ISGS geologist and principal investigator of the project. “However, the Illinois CAES project will evaluate using subsurface porous reservoirs without the need for caverns by injecting compressed air into subsurface porous strata. This is the first ever subsurface porous reservoir CAES system that is being attempted.”

Underground and above-ground hydrogen storage

Scientists at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) will team with several companies on a $200,000 DOE-funded project to study the feasibility of storing hydrogen underground in sedimentary rock, by determining baseline subsurface requirements and conditions for hydrogen storage. An above-ground compressed hydrogen storage system will also be used for a combined storage of more than 250 megawatt hours.

The hydrogen will be produced from natural gas by the Gas Technology Institute’s novel compact hydrogen generator. This process also produces carbon dioxide that will be captured and sequestered geologically.

Some of the hydrogen will be stored on the surface for immediate demand use and some will be stored underground separately from the carbon dioxide for longer duration energy storage. The combination of generating hydrogen for energy coupled with storage of carbon dioxide is considered “blue hydrogen” and results in a very low carbon emission energy source.

“The integrated energy system will also provide the means to further test and perfect the technological components to store energy underground and reduce carbon emissions,” said Steve Whittaker, ISGS geologist. “Successful integration of this approach will significantly increase opportunities for hydrogen storage across the U.S. as well as transform energy sustainability options by the tandem sequestration of CO2.”

Partners on the project include the Gas Technology Institute, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Hexagon Purus, and Ameren. DOE provided $200,000 in funding for the $316,000 project.

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Media contacts: Kevin OBrien, kcobrien@illinois.edu; Hannes Leetaru, hleetaru@illinois.edu; Steve Whittaker, sgwhit@illinois.edu
news@prairie.illinois.edu

This post originally appeared at Prairie Research Institute News. Read the original post.

ISTC provides technical assistance from a distance

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) at the University of Illinois makes companies and communities more competitive and resilient with sustainable business practices, technologies, and solutions. TAP works at the intersection of industry, science and government to help clients achieve profitable, sustainable results.

In service to the State of Illinois, ISTC provides all Illinois organizations, businesses, manufacturing facilities, institutions and governments the opportunity for one free site visit and sustainability assessment from TAP. However, in light of the Governor’s stay-at-home order and restrictions on non-essential travel for University personnel as we face the COVID-19 pandemic, TAP staff members are currently not conducting in-person site visits.

But this does not mean that we are not still here to serve you. Our staff members are working remotely, and are available to help your business or community with:

  • Answers to questions related to waste reduction, water and energy efficiency and conservation
  • Guidance on institutional water treatment, particularly given recent changes to building use patterns
  • Greening your supply chain
  • Sustainability visioning, goal setting, planning and communication with stakeholders
  • Information on alternative technologies and processes to reduce resource consumption, hazardous material use, and emissions
  • General recommendations for process improvement, which can increase your productivity while reducing your negative environmental footprint

Learn more about TAP services and impacts on the ISTC web site. If you are interested in scheduling a site visit in the future, when travel restrictions have been lifted, fill out our form to request a site visit.  Questions can also be directed to istc-info@illinois.edu, to receive immediate assistance.

Subscribe to our monthly e-mail newsletter on sustainability for food and beverage manufacturers at https://groups.webservices.illinois.edu/subscribe/115948.

You can also keep up to date on TAP projects and services, case studies, and guidance by subscribing to the ISTC blog (look for the “subscribe” box for email input on the main blog page) or exploring the blog’s Technical Assistance category. Our web site also provides a list of fact sheets, case studies and other publications which may provide inspiration for your efforts. In the coming months, TAP will also be developing a new web site to more fully describe recent projects, successes, and services; this will be linked to directly from the main ISTC web site. Be on the lookout for it!

Finally, on April 9th, at 12 PM Central, we invite you to join us for a webinar, Ann Arbor Summer Festival (A2SF) Festival Footprint: Going Zero Waste. Learn more and register at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4557515682919003659. If it inspires you to pursue zero waste at your facility or in your community, we’d love to discuss opportunities and ideas with you! Reach out to our zero waste team at istc-zerowaste@illinois.edu.  If you want to receive notifications of future webinars from ISTC, you can sign up at https://groups.webservices.illinois.edu/subscribe/53516.

Stay safe and know that we are here to support your organization’s sustainability efforts during this difficult time.

ISTC researchers develop greener biofuels process

tall green grass

Kirtika Kohli and BK Sharma have been busy in the lab creating a greener delignification method for biofuels refinery processes. Many see biofuels as a viable alternative to fossil fuels because they are renewable and can reduce carbon emissions through plant growth. However, biomass needs to be processed before it can be converted to biofuels.

Lignin is a substance found in plants that makes them rigid and woody. Lignin helps plants resist rotting, so biomass harvested for biofuels must undergo a pre-treatment process to break down the lignin. Once lignin is removed, the remaining biomass could be easily converted to monomeric sugars, which can  be converted biochemically into biofuels and other components in a biorefinery. With some additional refinement, the extracted lignin has the potential to be used in other applications in biofuels, biolubricants, polymers, binders, and biochemicals.

Current delignification processes have limited industrial applications because of their high costs, toxicity, and inability to recycle/reuse the chemicals used in the process. The team’s new method is more efficient, economic, and less toxic than current processes. It should ease operation/maintenance requirements and the need for special equipment as well as increase cost-effectiveness and recyclability. Their process is able to extract 85-88% of the lignin from Birchwood and Miscanthus (the two biomasses tested).

The team also developed a new lignin quantification method. The delignification process developed dissolves lignin into a green solvent that can be directly used for the quantification using a UV-Vis spectrophotometer. This new method is easier and more accurate than older lignin quantification methods, which were based on weight of the lignin yields that resulted in rough estimates.

Their paper is in-press and available online in Bioresource Technology: Effective Delignification of Lignocellulosic Biomass by Microwave Assisted Deep Eutectic Solvents.

New Year’s Reflections and Resolutions

The new year is a good time to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments, as well as make plans for the year ahead. Last year was a successful one for ISTC’s researchers. They were awarded five out of the five grants they submitted to Department of Energy, as well as one from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. They include:

  • Researchers Nandakishore Rajagopalan and Kevin OBrien’s effort to examine the scalability of Rajagopalan’s patented waste heat coupled forward osmosis (FO)-based water treatment system, Aquapod©, to improve wastewater quality and reduce water usage in a coal-fired +500 megawatt power plant.
  • A public-private partnership that demonstrates the feasibility of producing animal feed and/or biofuels at a significantly lower cost. The project combines technologies for bio-energy production that have been developed at ISTC in collaboration with HeliosNRG, headquartered in East Amherst, NY.
  • A large pilot scale test of technology to remove CO2 from power plant flue emissions. ISTC partnered with two multinational companies, Linde and BASF, to develop a new solvent based system to capture CO2 from power plants. They have partnered with Affiliated Engineers Inc. (AEI) and Affiliated Construction Services (ACS), which have extensive experience with designing and building systems for power plant applications. The team led by ISTC received $850,000 in spring 2018 for Phase I of the pilot testing project, which involves designing a 10 MW capture system that would be retrofitted to a central Illinois power plant. The group plans to compete for subsequent phases, which could lead to the development of a supply chain for captured CO2.
  • Advancing carbon capture absorption technology from lab to bench scale. ISTC has been assisting with an Illinois State Geological Survey lab-scale project to develop a biphasic CO2 absorption process (BiCAP) with multiple stages of liquid-liquid solvent phase separation, which increases carbon capture capacity. ISGS and ISTC have received an additional $3 million to conduct a three-year bench scale (40 KWe) study of their BiCAP technology.
  • Validating two innovative technologies that have the potential to significantly reduce flue gas aerosol concentrations from large-scale coal-fired power production. The technologies will be tested at the University of Illinois Abbott Power Plant. The results will be used as a benchmark for comparing their performance and cost to those of existing options.
  • An expansion of on-going research being conducted by John Scott and his team. Through funding from the Hazardous Waste Research Fund and the Annis Water Resource Institute at Grand Valley State University, they are studying the effects of microplastic type and deployment time in Lake Muskegon sediments and the water column on sorption of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to microplastic particles. The investigation includes legacy contaminants like chlorinated pesticides, polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). New funds from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant will allow the team to broaden their scope to study the role of microplastics as a carrier of PFAS in water and sediment.

Read more about these and other projects in ISTC’s 2018 annual report. If you’re looking for suggestions on making this year more sustainable, check out some of our blog posts from 2018.

PRI Researchers Gather in Australia for Top GHG Control Conference

Nine Prairie Research Institute (PRI) carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) researchers traveled to Melbourne, Australia in October for the Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies Conference 14, the field’s leading biennial scientific gathering, sponsored by the 30-nation Energy Technology Network.

gas separation test facility for CO2 capture
The $100 million CO2CRC gas separation test facility in Otway, Australia is developing new membrane materials for use in capturing purified carbon dioxide at a high- concentration natural gas well. This apparatus demonstrates the ability to test lab scale, flat membrane sheets and single fibers of hollow fiber membranes.

While at the conference, they visited Australia’s major CCS center, the Otway National Research Center. Otway’s CO2CRC gas separation test facility is developing membranes and techniques for CO2 storage, according to ISTC Director Kevin OBrien.

OBrien added that Dr. Abdul Qader, CO2CRC’s facilities manager, explained new strategies for separating CO2 from methane. “This would be a major driver for the natural gas industry in the Asia-Pacific region,” OBrien explained.

“They also have the ability to test new sorbents as part of their research into pressure swing absorption,” he said.

PRI is also a major player in technology development for CCUS. At ISTC, research focuses on the development of a large-scale U.S. carbon capture pilot at a working coal-fired power plant. Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) researchers have developed expertise in sequestration of carbon dioxide in deep rock formations.

Because global demand for fossil fuels is not likely to decline soon, technologies must be developed to reduce carbon emissions by capturing, storing, and finding beneficial ways to use the waste gas, OBrien said. Capture requires a lot of energy and work at PRI and CO2CRC both search for better capture efficiency to lower its cost.

Work is underway worldwide to perfect a wide variety approaches. Successful commercialization of any of these technologies could be a game changer for climate change efforts because most of the world’s economies will continue using coal and other fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, said OBrien.

team of researchers at Australia conference
PRI CCUS researchers (left to right) Chris Korose, Randy Locke, Kevin OBrien, Sallie Greenberg, Scott Frailey, Vinod Patel, Nick Malkewicz (of Projeo Corporation), and Lance Schideman. Steve Whittaker and Keri Canaday (not pictured) also attended meeting.

The Interesting World of Solar Panels

WRITTEN BY: John Mulunda, ISTC intern

Can you guess which energy source has had an average annual growth of 59% in the past decade? If you guessed solar energy then you’re right. Solar energy’s sustained annual growth is due to advances in module technology creating competitiveness with other energy technologies, as well as the decline in soft costs for residential and small commercial installations.   

About Solar Panels

Simply put, solar panels are devices that turn the sun’s light into electricity. Each solar panel is made up of multiple cells connected/wired together to create the necessary electrical power needed for the application. Most solar panels on the market today are made from silicon, a semiconducting material. Each cell contains a semiconductor wafer that forms an electric current that is positive on one side and negative on the other. When light energy hits the solar panel, electrons are knocked loose from the atoms in the semiconductor material. If electrical conductors are attached to the positive and negative sides, they form an electrical circuit for electricity to flow to an electrical load such as a light or computer.

Issues

With the large increase in expected solar installations in Illinois and beyond over the next several years, what happens to these panels if they are damaged or when they reach the end of their design-life? While some of them are being repurposed or recycled, many are ending up in landfills. However, landfill disposal may not be the best use of human and natural resources. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that by 2050, there will be 60 to 78 million cumulative metric tons of solar panel waste globally. Careful deconstruction of this waste is essential to recover component toxics (cadmium, lead) and valuable metals (silver, iridium, gallium) that otherwise would be landfilled, which prevents possible contamination of water and air systems through leaching and open burning, respectively.

In addition, recyling solar panels allows the opportunity to recover metals, such as silver, aluminum, silicon, and gallium, that would otherwise have to be extracted. In fact, it takes a lot of work to extract gallium because it is not found as a free element in nature. It exists only in trace amounts of various compounds such as zinc or aluminum ores.

Law & Policy – Planning for the Future

There is a bright side to all of this: the value of the recovered materials from solar panel recycling and reuse could be over $15 billion by 2050. Furthermore, many countries have thought about what to do with damaged and or end-of-life solar panels.Some governments have already created laws, while others are in the process of doing so. The European Union (EU) passed a law that requires all producers who sell solar panels in the EU to pay the costs of collecting and recycling panels.

In the U.S., there are no federal laws for solar panel disposal, but the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is working to establish a national network of certified solar recyclers. Additionally, the State of Washington requires solar manufacturers that sell in Washington to finance the upfront costs of collecting and recycling the panels. The state of New York is in the process of writing a law that will allow the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to work with manufacturers to create a program to help with the collection, transportation, recycling, and disposal of used solar panels. This program would be funded by the manufacturers.

As of 2018, Illinois does not have solar panel recycling regulations. The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is working with the Illinois EPA, Illinois Solar Energy Association, SEIA, and recycling companies to create a solar panel recycling network. On July 18, 2018, ISTC staff, Nancy Holm and Jennifer Martin, will be at a SWANA Illinois meeting presenting a joint talk about how to make the emerging solar panel market in Illinois more sustainable through recycling.

Advancing carbon capture technology

Research is progressing on a novel biphasic solvent absorption method that holds promise as an innovative, cost-saving alternative to the conventional CO2 capture process in power plants. ISTC researchers have been assisting the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) on a lab-scale (10KWe) project developing a biphasic CO2 absorption process (BiCAP) with multiple stages of liquid-liquid solvent phase separation, which improves CO2 absorption kinetics and increases the carbon capture capacity.

“And, more importantly,” explained Wei Zheng, senior research chemist at ISTC who is working on the project, “this new technology can also significantly reduce both the energy use and equipment cost for CO2 capture compared to the conventional amine-based process.”

The lab-scale research is being led by ISGS, supported by a grant from U.S Department of Energy (DOE).

Currently, the team has evaluated the corrosive properties of solvents on carbon and stainless steel, which are main materials used for CO2 absorbers and strippers. “Corrosion is not a concern,” said ISTC senior research engineer Brajendra Sharma. “We’re moving forward with the project and are on track with all our milestones.”

Now the research efforts are ready for the next step.  Recently U.S. DOE announced $3M of additional funding for ISGS and ISTC to conduct a three-year bench-scale (40KWe) study of their BiCAP technology.

The primary goal of this new project is to leverage the BiCAP process and validate its technical advantages through a fully-integrated bench-scale testing in a relevant flue gas environment. The proposed technology is aimed at achieving a CO2 capture cost of $30/tonne and >95% CO2 purity to meet DOE’s Transformational CO2 Capture goals.

Read more about the biphasic project on ISTC’s website.

Mr. Grinch says ‘demand fast, free shipping at all times’

free two-day shipping
Two-day free shipping is shifting competition toward more speed. But is it the green thing to do?

What a wonderful world when we can shop online and get free two-day shipping.

 

What could be better?

 

From a climate perspective, perhaps slower is better.

 

More than thirty years of engineering have made passenger cars highly efficient and clean burning. That trip to the local store might have a smaller footprint than that uber-delivery to your door. Diesel trucks are lightly regulated and impact air quality more.

 

Experts at the University of California say today’s competition to get it to you fastest is eroding the logistical progress they had made in consolidating their shipments.
Grist explains some of the complexities of shipping that determine the carbon-intensively of your shipping choice. All of those individual shipping boxes have also been implicated for their impacts.

 

MIT’s 2013 analysis concludes that you’ll impact the planet least if you shop completely online, without going to the store to field test your purchase.

 

But now there is the added variable of free two-day shipping? Just because it is free you don’t have to choose it, according to Miguel Jaller, of the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California Davis. Consolidate your own purchases and choose a slower delivery option — that gives shippers the best chance of consolidating their shipments. Happy Holidays!