ISTC seminar explores the impact of the Future Energy Jobs Act on community solar development

On January 9, ISTC brought together speakers from Illinois Environmental Council, the Coalition for Community Solar Access, and the Illinois Solar Energy Association to discuss the potential impact of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) on community solar development in Illinois.

An archive of the webinar (Solar Updates for Illinois Counties, Communities, Schools, and Businesses Preparing for Solar Development), as well as slides from the presenters are available on ISTC’s web site.

Technical Assistance Program awarded $338,549 grant to assist food manufacturers

ISTC’s technical assistance program engineers have been awarded a $338,549 pollution prevention (P2) grant from U.S. EPA Region 5 to provide on-site pollution prevention technical assistance, including Economy, Energy and Environment (E3), to Illinois food and beverage manufacturers and processors. This assistance will result in reduced water and energy usage, hazardous materials generation, and reduce business costs.

This grant is part of the ongoing Illinois Conservation of Resources and Energy (ICORE) project.

Principal investigator Dan Marsch says, “Since its inception, ICORE has been a very successful program providing on-site P2 technical assistance to businesses in underserved communities across Illinois. ICORE is one of U.S. EPA Region 5’s flagship programs, delivering consistent results and leadership in sustainability within the region.”

Food and beverage manufacturers, processing facilities, and their direct suppliers and supporting industries are all eligible for assistance under through this project. Interested companies may contact:

Northern Illinois

Shantanu Pai
(630) 586-9168
spai@illinois.edu

Central Illinois

Troy Walker
(217) 300-1596
twalk@illinois.edu

Southern Illinois

Dan Marsch
(217) 300-4199
djmarsch@illinois.edu

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.

Laura Barnes appointed to National Pollution Prevention Roundtable Board of Directors

Laura L. Barnes, ISTC’s Sustainability Information Curator, has been appointed to the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable‘s Board of Directors to fill the Region 5 seat, which represents programs in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) is a national forum that promotes the development, implementation, and evaluation of efforts to avoid, eliminate, or reduce waste generated to air, land, and water.

Ms. Barnes will serve on NPPR’s web site team and the planning committee for the Roundtable’s upcoming Education Forum, as well as assist with the organization’s strategic communications.

A Very (Last-Minute) Sustainable Christmas

Are you a last-minute holiday gift shopper? Personally, I have a knack for waiting until the last possible second to take care of my yuletide errands, but I always (somehow) pull it off just in time. Wanting to incorporate sustainability into your holiday plans but afraid that there’s not enough time? You may have not factored sustainability into your holiday plans months in advance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start now. Here are a few tips to have a very (last-minute) sustainable Christmas.    

Photo Courtesy of History.com 

Recycle

Recycling is an easy way to make your Christmas festivities more sustainable. While plastic cellophane and metallic wrapping has to go to landfills, wrapping paper can be reused. When it’s time to open presents, take out a recycling bin. Make an effort to direct people to it after they’ve opened their gifts. If you have some over-excited present-openers that like to haphazardly rip and throw their scraps, resist the urge to toss it all. Pick it up at the end of the night and put into the bin. You’ll have a cleaner house and feel better about yourself.

Ornaments

While decorating the tree is a Christmas tradition, it’s hard to find time these days to take part. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the racks and racks of gaudy, expensive ornaments lining store shelves, each with more glitter than the next. You don’t need the most showy decorations to stand out. Instead, make creative ornaments from materials at home. It’ll give you the traditional display you want while also adding a unique, personal touch and saving some extra cash.

If you’re from Champaign-Urbana ,The IDEA Store is a great place to fulfill your last-minute eco-ornament needs.

Lights

Looking to spruce up your house before having guests over? Head to the store and buy some  some energy efficient LED or solar powered lights. They may be pricier, but they typically last longer, which means you’re covered for next year. Less electricity used, same festive impact. And, remember, while those twinkle lights may look pretty, flashing lights actually use more energy, so stick with traditional.

If you find yourself wanting to have a more sustainable Christmas with only a few days left on the calendar to do so, don’t fret. Like those last-minute gifts, sustainability is something that can still be achieved with days to spare. Pair these tips with our other suggestions for a sustainable holiday and you’ll be good to go. May your days be sustainable and waste-free, and may all your holidays be green.

Sustainable Holidays

We’re halfway through December and deep into the holiday season. At this time of year, people tend to focus on how much stuff they can buy. Sustainability doesn’t have to take a back seat though. Check out this post on rethinking the holidays or this fact sheet for more info on how to have a more sustainable holiday season.

Some key tips include:

  • Reduce —  Buy only what you need. When you do need to purchase something, look for recycled content or buy used.
  • Buy local food —  When possible, support local farmers and reduce your carbon footprint by buying local food.
  • Send E-cardsCommunicating the holiday spirit should not be at the price of trees. Instead, consider sending e-cards, which are readily available on the web. If you receive greeting cards, repurpose them as gift tags on your holiday packages.
  • Eco-Friendly gift wrapping — Consider wrapping gifts in recycled material like a newspaper or using something that can be reused, like thin cloth. You can also reuse gift bags that you’ve received from others.

U of I scientists pitch $40M carbon capture project for CWLP

Read the full story in the Springfield State Journal-Register.

A research center with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is looking for support from the Springfield City Council on a $40 million pilot project that would retrofit City Water, Light and Power’s newest power plant to capture carbon dioxide.

Kevin O’Brien, director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, presented their proposal to council members during Monday’s Utilities Committee meeting. The project would study whether the method of capturing carbon dioxide from CWLP’s emissions is effective and cost-efficient.

Giving Tuesday

After the conspicuous consumption messages of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday provides an opportunity to think about how we can give back.  Vox has some tips to help you choose which charities to support. Resources like Charity Navigator, GiveWell, and GuideStar can help you determine how your money gets spent.

ISTC is working to combat the effects of consumerism by coming up with solutions to some of the world’s greatest environmental problems. This important work would not be possible without generous support from our funding organizations and supporters like you. Thank you!

Agricultural Chemicals in the Environment: A Study on Nitrapyrin

For a number of farms in the Midwest, nitrapyrin is used to help hold nutrients in agricultural fields until the plants have a chance to use them. Nitrapyrin increases the availability of nitrogen fertilizer, which boosts crop production. Therefore, nitrapyrin can improve nitrogen use efficiency, reduce nutrient losses, and thereby mitigate eutrophication (excess nutrients spurring exponential growth of algae in lakes).

Nitrapyrin and other nitrogen inhibitors work by limiting the conversion of ammonium to nitrite (first step of nitrification). Nitrapyrin also restricts the formation of nitrate from nitrite (second step of nitrification).  Nitrate is one of the major contributors to eutrophication.

While the use of nitrapyrin has benefits, concerns have been raised about whether its runoff from fields into nearby rivers and streams could have an impact on bacteria and the nitrification process in those water bodies. Even though nitrapyrin has been used as nitrification inhibitor and soil bactericide since the early 1970s, there is limited information on its fate and transport from fields into aquatic ecosystems.

As an initial step to quantify the amounts of nitrapyrin present in fields and streams, ISTC researchers Wei Zheng and Nancy Holm collaborated with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to undertake a one-year study of its occurrence in seven streams and nearby farm fields in Iowa and Illinois. The team examined the concentrations of nitrapyrin, its metabolities, and three widely used herbicides – acetochlor, atrazine, and metolachlor – in soil and water samples.

Results from their recently published article showed that nitrapyrin was found in many of the samples. It was sorbed to soil particles, transported from fields via overland flow, and leached into subsurface drains. In addition, all three herbicides were found in the stream samples with atrazine being the most concentrated of the three, especially at peak application times.

This research project extends the previously published pilot study on nitrapyrin by the USGS and is the first to show the transport of nitrapyrin from fields to streams over an entire year. In addition, this study is the first to describe nitrapyrin transport via subsurface drains, although those concentrations were much lower than surface concentrations. Studies such as this can help provide decision makers with a better understanding of the fate of chemicals applied to agroecosystems.