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Coal Stack Demo to Begin Feb. 4

January 31, 2013

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MACOMB, IL -- Since 1925, the coal stack on the southeast side of the Western Illinois University campus has been a familiar part of the campus landscape. On Monday, Feb. 4 (weather permitting), the coal stack, or chimney, will begin to come down, brick by brick as part of the University's coal decommissioning and move to natural gas.

The demolition, which includes the baghouse on the southeast corner of the Heating Plant Annex, is expected to be finished within two months, according to George Beckman, WIU facilities management construction project coordinator. American Demolition Corporation of Elgin is completing the $249,165 project. The chimney will be taken down to approximately 35 feet, and then the structured baghouse will be demolished, following by the remainder of the stack. While a few parking spots directly south of the baghouse will be barricaded, the lot and sidewalk will remain open during the demolition, Beckman added.

The Board of Trustees voted in December 2011 to discontinue the use of coal as a heating source at Western in order to move to a more energy efficient campus. By switching to natural gas, the University will no longer have to dispose of the ashes that burning coal created, nor will WIU have the costs associated with hauling coal to campus, according to Monte Colley, assistant director of facilities management.

Colley explained the University chose to decommission the use of coal as it was less expensive than other available options, which included replacing the heating plant coal stack with one twice as tall, making required improvements to major coal assets, importing low sulfur Indiana coal and adding EPA-required emission controls.

"As part of the coal decommissioning, WIU has also replaced its back-up fuel source with a lighter and cleaner-burning diesel fuel," Colley added. "In addition, a gas boiler in the heating plant has been re-tubed and re-cased, gas boiler controls have been upgraded and the plant's 60-year-old switch gear was replaced."

According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, "greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired electricity, comprise 27 percent of total U.S. emissions."

"President Obama has set a goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by the end of this decade. WIU is making significant strides toward reducing its carbon footprint by the decommissioning of coal, which contributes to our country's initiative of reducing greenhouse gas emissions," noted WIU Sustainability Coordinator Mandi Green.

Facilities Management Scott Coker added that Western's goal is to move to a more sustainable campus, not just in new construction and building renovations, but also with energy efficiency.

"We continually ask our faculty, staff and students to practice sustainability through such actions as recycling and reusing materials. It's important for the University to 'practice what it preaches,'" Coker said. "Whether it is switching from coal to natural gas or installing energy-efficient lighting or renovating a building using green practices, everything that we can do to move toward a more efficient and environmentally-friendly campus is good for all of us."

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