The second-annual symposium was held at the Memorial Union, with planned events beginning Monday, February 25, 2013. The event included lectures and activities regarding the wide-variety of sustainable activities taking place on campus, encouraging celebration and discussion among participants.
During the “Energy Innovation for Today and Tomorrow – A Multidisciplinary Approach,” three speakers presented their involvements and perspectives on energy sustainability at Iowa State.
Dr. Robert Brown, director of ISU’s Bioeconomy Institute (BEI), shared the ways the BEI and it’s affiliate programs research and develop biomass for sustainable supplies of energy.
“We want our fuels to emulate nature by ultimately being based on solar energy and following natural energy flows,” Brown said. “We are a long ways away from being exactly like nature, but agriculture-based fuel is a way to start.”
Brown highlighted affiliated programs with similar mindsets that work with the university, such as CenUSA Bioenergy, NSF EPSCoR, Biobased Industry Center, Initiative for a Carbon Negative Economy, ConocoPhillips Biofuels Partnership, and the interdisciplinary graduate program at BEI.
The second speaker, Jeff Witt, director of Utilities Services, Facilities Planning and Management, focused on energy production and use on campus.
“We are beginning to see campus embrace energy efficiency, and we are going through an interesting time of unprecedented change in the energy industry,” Witt said.
Since 1891, ISU’s campus has been powered through by cogeneration of coal, which provides both thermal and electrical energy. This is a more energy efficient use of coal, and has been recognized by the EPA for 54-57 percent efficiency. While coal is still the major fuel source, the university has also worked on implementing alternative fuel sources such as biomass and wind energy.
In December 2012, a 100 kw wind turbine was installed on campus. The turbine is intended to provide research data, but its production could annually cover the energy used by Catt Hall or East Hall or the Hub.
Due to new emissions regulations, the coal plant plans to replace three coal boilers with natural gas boilers, which will reduce the power plant’s coal emissions by 33-35 percent. The plant plans to keep two existing coal boilers that give flexibility between natural gas and coal fuels, keeping costs as low as possible for students.
The third speaker, David Correll, co-founder and director of administration of the ISU BioBus, offered a perspective of student, on-the-ground biofuel initiatives. BioBus is an entrepreneurial student initiative that works to recycle waste vegetable oil from ISU campus dining into biodiesel fuel to power CyRide buses.
In April 2011, BioBus added its homemade B100 vegetable oil based biodiesel to the first CyRide bus. This event kicked off the ‘greening’ of campus transportation and now the majority of campus and city bus diesel is blended with B100 biodiesel.
The group works reaches out to high school and elementary students, and encourages creativity in sustainability practices.
“Sustainability is not a problem, it is not a burden, it is an opportunity,” Correll said.