Johnson County had 24 acres of dead and dying invasive species-infested pine trees and little if any money to clear the environmental wasteland for productive use and the University of Iowa was falling short of its goal meet 40 percent of the institution’s energy needs through sustainable sources by 2020. Solution? Use the dying Johnson County trees as biomass to be burned with coal in the university’s steam-generating boilers. The university ups its sustainable energy quotient, while the conservation department replaces an environmental nightmare with prairie and oak savanna jewels.
While the UI will “be paying a little more” for the wood biomass than for the fuel equivalence of coal, “this project allows us to gain the data and experiential knowledge that will allow us to further develop the concept of using local, sustainably managed biomass as fuel,” said Liz Christiansen, director of the university’s Office of Sustainability.