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EIU 'Moves Mud'; Clean Energy Research and Education Center Advances

Mar-01-2013

Artist's rendering of planned facility

An exceptionally wet week meant that Friday’s groundbreaking was more like a mud-moving event.

Spirits remained high, though, as Eastern Illinois University took the next step forward toward the construction of a much anticipated facility for its Center for Clean Energy Research and Education.

“When, on Jan. 14, 2011, the Board of Trustees formally approved the creation of the center, we did so happily, knowing that this would be another fantastic opportunity for the students of EIU,” said Roger Kratochvil, chairman of EIU’s Board of Trustees.

“In addition to working in a wonderful facility conducive to solid, hands-on clean energy research, our students will have the chance to do so in the company of some of the country’s most capable and knowledgeable teachers.

“The board was also cognizant of the good Eastern could do to help support economic development in the region and, possibly, throughout the state, by conducting research that might provide area farmers with new markets for agricultural products and byproducts.

“It seemed to us to be a win-win-win situation,” he said.

When completed, the 5,000-plus-square-foot building will house a research facility in which faculty and students can conduct hands-on investigations of biomass sources that may be suitable as alternatives or additives to the wood chips being used in Eastern’s recently constructed Renewable Energy Center.   By studying the fuel characteristics of various biomass sources, students will gain a more integrated understanding of physics, chemistry, engineering and technology.

Shown, from left to right, are Bob Martin, vice president for university 
advancement; Richard Williams, Jeff Horn, Mike Metzger and Henry
"Woody" Kramer, representing the Charleston Area Charitable
Foundation; Roger Kratochvil, chair, EIU Board of Trustees;
and EIU President Bill Perry.

In addition to commemorating the beginning of construction work, Friday’s celebration also served as a thank-you to the Charleston Area Charitable Foundation.

“The foundation presented us with a significant gift on behalf of the project,” said Robert Martin, vice president for university advancement.  “And we wanted to thank them for their generosity.”

“We are grateful to our first and major partner in this endeavor – the Charleston Area Charitable Foundation,” echoed CENCERE Director Peter Ping Liu.

The foundation’s financial support has already “enabled us to acquire a laboratory scale gasifer and a gas analysis instrument,” he continued.  “The laboratory gasifier has become the center piece of our research and learning.  It enabled us to experiment with various biomass resources available in the area.  With the research in biomass gasification, we hope to develop alternative biomass fuels for the Renewable Energy Center.

“With (the foundation’s) support to our research, we have gained knowledge and confidence,” Liu said.

According to the director, work done through CENCERE has already helped forge partnerships with the community, including Charleston High School, other colleges and universities, and private companies in the region and state.  The expectation is that these relationships will only strengthen and increase in number with the construction of a new facility in which to house CENCERE.

EIU officials say that initial construction, estimated to cost right at $1 million, should be completed by the end of the calendar year.  The building will be located immediately north of Eastern’s Renewable Energy Center, located near the intersection of 18th Street (Illinois Route 130) and Edgar Drive.

Plans allow for expansion of the building as need and financing allow.