A University of Iowa renewable energy project is using woody biomass to stimulate the local economy.
The Oakdale Renewable Energy Plant, led by Ferman Milster, principal engineer, has replaced one of four coal boilers used to provide steam for a satellite campus with a wood chip-fired unit manufactured by Hurst Boiler and Welding Co.
The boiler will produce 20,000 pounds per hour of saturated steam. Milster and his team have repurposed an old underground coal bunker to serve as wood chip storage, and, according to Milster, the team is excited about the opportunity to procure even more of the biomass fuel locally. “All the natural gas and coal to support our energy needs comes from out-of-state,” he said. “That means the money for this fuel leaves Iowa. Buying wood chips locally, at prices competitive with historical average natural gas prices, puts money back into the local economy.”