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CENCERE Receives $198,695 National Science Foundation Grant

Jun-28-2012

Eastern Illinois University's Center for Clean Energy Research and Education (CENCERE) has received a three-year, $198,695 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The funded project, "Enhancing Undergraduate Education Through Student-Led Research in Biomass Renewable Energy", will position EIU as a strong leader in educating students about renewable energy and biomass research.

CENCERE will operate as an extension of EIU's Renewable Energy Center, one of the country's largest university biomass installations. Plans call for the CENCERE facility to be built next to the REC starting in Fall 2012.

CENCERE will include a research-scale biomass gasification reactor to serve as a demonstration site/laboratory that will allow students to gain a more integrated understanding of physics, chemistry, engineering and technology.

The lab will be particularly useful for students pursuing some of EIU’s sustainability-focused programs, including:

  • the master's program in renewable energy (in development);
  • the biology department's new sustainability major, with emphases including rain water recovery, biodiesel production and sustainable city planning;
  • the interdisciplinary minor in sustainability studies (in development); and
  • the concentration in alternative energies and sustainability.

Student-led research will include investigations of various plant-based biomass sources that may be suitable as alternatives or additives to the wood chips used in the Renewable Energy Center, which could provide new markets for area farmers' agricultural products and byproducts.

The research team is led by Peter Liu and includes fellow School of Technology faculty members Jerry Cloward, Rendong Bai, Issac Slaven and David Melton, as well as Rose Gong from the Department of Secondary Education and Foundations.

When the Renewable Energy Center went online in 2011, EIU became the first Illinois public university to make the switch from coal to renewable biomass. The $80 million project ($55 million for the Renewable Energy Center, and $25 million for additional energy conservation measures) was completed at no cost to students or taxpayers, thanks to a contract with Honeywell International, the Fortune 100 company that oversaw the building’s construction. The contract guarantees that within 20 years, construction and financing costs will be offset by cost savings through the university’s increased efficiency.

The Renewable Energy Center is the first known power plant to be registered with the United States Green Building Council for their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) New Construction program. The center is on track to be among the first power plants in the nation to receive certification at the Gold level.