STRATEGY 2.0 Clean and Renewable Energy Sources

solar panels on Douglas and Lincoln Halls

This strategy calls for UIC to procure renewable energy through an indirect (10-year) power purchase agreement through a renewable energy developer like a wind farm, and also through an onsite (10-year) power purchase agreement to install solar PV rooftop system. This strategy also will utilize thermal alternatives that will increase the campus' onsite power plant electricity production. This will help UIC achieve its commitment to be a Carbon Neutral Campus and could save UIC nearly 75,000 MTCO2e annually.

These solutions on this page have been updated from what is mentioned in the original report (2018).

Review the original CAIP Strategy 2.0 (2018)

2.1 PROCURE RENEWABLE ENERGY

Viable options for increasing UIC’s reliance on renewable-sourced power include a long-term offsite power purchase agreement (PPA) and a variety of onsite options for integrating solar photovoltaic (PV) generation onto campus building rooftops.

The University of Illinois makes its energy procurements through Prairieland Energy Inc. (PEI). PEI contracted with an energy market consultant in 2019 to review methods by which UIC can meet its renewable energy and carbon reduction goals. The report found that UIC/PEI consider issuing an RFP for physical or virtual PPA to meet the requirements. Under a PPA, PEI could contract with a project developer to buy the renewable energy output and associated renewable attributes (Renewable Energy Credits – RECs) at a levelized cost over a 20 year contract, to cover the full cost of the system. PEI would have the option to purchase the system outright on or before the end of the PPA term.

2.1.1 Indirect Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

view of UIC's east campus with the Chicago skyline in the background

GOAL

Gradually increase procurement of renewable electricity to 50% by 2028 and then 80,000 MWh by 2035.

Indirect long-term PPA’s are a financial transaction between the generating facility and the off-taker; no renewable power is physically delivered. A PPA could be used to procure energy from a large-scale off-site project. Chancellor Amiridis has expressed his support for an indirect or virtual PPA.

Our institution’s 12-15 year commitment to buy this power enables the developer to execute construction of a new source of renewable energy, creating additionality (adding new renewable energy to the grid). UIC is interested in contracting for an Illinois based solar energy facility for 80,000 MWh/yr. Discussions are ongoing with UIUC leadership to see if they want to issue the RFP jointly with UIC. There is also a change needed to be made to a Board of Trustees policy in order to enable this process to start.

2.1.2 Onsite PPA Solar Rooftop Generation

Douglas Hall solar panels

GOAL

Contract for at least 1 MW capacity of onsite solar.

Onsite renewable energy such as solar PV rooftop generation is a way to physically source a portion of a facility’s energy needs, improve the fuel diversity of the system, and promote energy independence by visibly demonstrating a civic commitment to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Additional funding streams for physical deployment and/or procurement include grants and public-private partnerships. The Illinois energy legislation passed in September 2021 promotes renewable energy, particularly solar energy constructed in the state.

The majority of this goal could be achieved by the use of a physical PPA which means that the renewable energy would be built by a third party on a leased portion of campus and delivered directly into UIC’s grid. Given the urban location of the campus, solar photovoltaic technology is best suited for this. As of July 2020, the committee selected and made a recommendation for a potential developer. One of the seven potential sites qualified for incentives, but further analysis revealed there was no funding for the group 4 and 5 Adjustable Block Program and no awards had been made since May of 2019. Due to the lack of incentive funding and award, legal cost to contract, provided too much risk and uncertainty with the project. It was recommended to management to table the project and reassess if incentives became available.

In FY2022, UIC will be following the roll-out of the new legislation and evaluating the feasibility of issuing a new RFP to achieve this goal. PEI policy requires a cost savings for renewables when executing a 20 year PPA, without incentives meeting policy requirements are very difficult. The most economical location for solar would be rooftops that have the capacity to support solar and are newly repaired or replaced, which are the Student Services Building and the Daley Library.

Progress is being made on new construction with a small solar PV project on the Computer Design and Research Learning Center building that broke ground this summer. The 247 panels will have a total capacity of 69.2 kW.

Climate Resilience Connection

Reliance on a singular form of energy production creates dangerous dependencies. To achieve energy independence, UIC is determined to diversify its renewable energy portfolio through solar rooftop generation.

Climate Resilience: 7.4 SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE

2.2 UTILIZE THERMAL ALTERNATIVES

Power plants at UIC use an engine or turbine to generate electricity and utilize the excess heat generated from equipment for heating buildings. This can be up to twice as efficient in its energy use as a typical coal or gas-fired powered electricity plant. These plants produce electricity, steam, and high temperature hot water for heating, cooling, and electric loads.

 

2.2.1 Onsite Power Plant Electricity Production

West Campus CHP Plant solar gas turbine

GOAL

Increase onsite power plant electricity production.

The UIC cogeneration plants generate electricity when it is cost-effective to do so; which is heavily driven by the cost of natural gas used in the production of electricity. UIC Utilities and Energy Services (UES) increased electricity use by 48,631 MWh from FY2018 to FY2019, decreased by 4,848 MWh in FY2020 but overall electricity use was down 32,760 MWh in FY2020 due to COVID shut down (assumed). In FY2021, UIC decreased production by 5,632 MWh, with an overall electricity use reduction of 7,366 MWh due to COVID shut down.