University of Iowa

Renewable Energy

Zero Coal by 2025

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld announced Feb. 20, 2017 that the University of Iowa campus will be coal-free by 2025. Read the announcement.


  • 40% of campus energy from renewable sources by 2020
  • Zero Coal by 2025

Biomass Portfolio

The University of Iowa uses a diverse blend of biomass fuels, including oat hulls, energy pellets, and Miscanthus grass.

Oat hulls
Oat Hulls

Introduced in 2003, this public-private collaboration created a new market for this oat hull by-product . Over the first 10 years of use, oat hulls displaced 183,000 tons of coal and generated approximately $7.6M in savings.

Looking ahead: Maintain stable supply.

Miscanthus Grass

The UI is growing its own energy in the form of Miscanthus grass and is on track to plant 2,500 acres to produce 22,500 tons of sustainable and renewable fuel for the campus annually and to create a dedicated energy crop alternative to traditional row cropping to provide a stable income to Iowa's farmers.

Looking ahead: Increase bulk density to reduce cost of storage and trucking, conduct trials to blend miscanthus with energy pellets, continue land acquisition to reach target.

Energy Pellets
Energy Pellets

These manufacturing by-products are non-recyclable and divert waste from the landfill, and result in approximately 60% improvement in CO2 emissions vs. coal. Pellets can be blended with Miscanthus or other biomass and used as fuel stock.

Looking ahead: Ramp up use of pellets, attract pellet suppliers to locate in eastern Iowa, develop a miscanthus-blend pellet.




  • Coal consumption decreased by 60% since 2010
  • Boiler 10 fully converted to Energy Pellets in September 2017; no coal in boiler 10
  • Current focus to reduce coal usage in boiler 11 to zero


  • The UI Power Plant innovated the conversion of two solid fuel boilers to burn biomass in place of coal
  • Continue to partner with academic and industry experts
  • Developing a Pilot Plant for pelleting, self-powered by landfill gas
  • Balance risk profiles and timing of production
  • Long-term supply agreements to ensure stability
  • Improve UI's energy security through multi-fuel strategy
  • Re-direct $10M of out-of-state fuel spend to Iowa suppliers and growers
  • Create local densification facilities = construction and permanent jobs, property taxes to community
  • Minimize cost, risk to Iowa taxpayers
  • Safeguard community support





Contact Us

Ben Fish

Associate Director, Utility Operations

FM Utilities




The University of Iowa Facilities Management has partnered with Dr. Betsy Stone, an assistant professor and researcher of the University of Iowa Chemistry Department, in order to determine the effects of co-firing biomass with coal on emissions of air pollutants. Results of Dr. Stone's studies have shown reductions in air pollutants when co-firing oat hulls.

PDF icon"Effects of Co-firing Biomass with Coal on Emissions of Air Pollutants," Ibrahim Al-Naiema and Elizabeth A. Stone, Department of Chemistry, University of Iowa
"Bravo to biomass, UI study shows using oat hulls for power has considerable benefits to the environment and human health," Iowa Now, 09/24/15.