Tag Archives: University of Iowa

A County-University Biomass Project — Update

by Jim and Melanie

Last month we posted the story of a joint project between our beautiful county park, F.W. Kent Park, and the University of Iowa.

The park is in the process of restoring prairies to more of the landscape. On the northeast side of the park, a dense woods of planted conifer trees provided shade and shelter. They were not native, and as older trees, they were dying from age and disease. When we visited the park, expecting to see the old pines, we met with surprise. The entire pine woods was nowhere to be seen. The only traces remaining were some ground level cut stumps and small branch debris scattered about.

The trees were removed by the university, giving the county conservation board a head start on the restoration project on that side of the park. The trees were chipped and will be used as biomass to supplement the coal in the university’s power plant boilers. For several years, they have been using biomass from some local sources in that effort. This video, also in the older post, explains.

As reported by the Quad-City Times, the university has 3,000 tons of wood chips from the clearing to mix with coal. The supply should last through spring. While 3,000 tons sounds like a lot, the university needs approximately 100,000 tons of biomass to meet its 2020 sustainable energy goals.

From the article,

The university is experimenting with other forms of biomass, too. In June, it planted 16 acres of a perennial grass called miscanthus x giganteus. When the grass matures, a process expected to take three years, the university will try burning it for fuel, said Ben Anderson, UI’s power plant maintenance and engineering manager. The heat content from miscanthus is similar to oat hulls, he said.

The university plans to plant another small plot of miscanthus in 2014, and then plant another 1,000 acres in 2015, Milster said. It also is seeking potential growers to contract with, he said.

Miscanthus has ecological benefits, too: It improves soil quality and mitigates runoff, Milster said. The university does not intend to compete for land with corn and soybeans. Rather, it would grow the miscanthus on marginal land, [Ferman Milster] said.

The university continues to evaluate proposals for biomass from individuals and companies. After using oat hulls successfully for several years, other possibilities include corn stover, tree waste from landfills, and furniture production waste.

The university’s goal is to have 40 percent of energy use from renewable sources by 2020. Biomass replacement of coal is one of the most promising means to reach the goal. Solar and wind energy are important sources, as well.

Since the university is a major presence in our community, we’re heartened to know they are aggressively pursuing sustainable energy goals. It’s good for the university, the greater community, and our environment.


Charlotte’s Clubfoot

by Melanie and Jim

Someone very near and dear to our family found out last winter that her unborn baby girl was going to be born with a clubfoot. In her words…

I received a phone call from my doctor that no parent ever wants to hear. ‘There was an abnormality on your ultrasound. It appears that the baby’s right foot is a clubfoot. I’m going to put in a referral for you to be seen at Walter Reed in Maternal/Fetal Medicine.’

Umm, what? There’s something wrong with my baby? What does a clubfoot mean? Does she not have toes? Can it be fixed? Will she walk? Is it a sign of a more serious abnormality? Is it my fault? These are just a few of the questions that flooded my mind as my eyes filled with tears.

She set about finding out all she could about it and the best course of treatment. She hoped, by telling her story, that she would be better able to cope with the future appointments and treatments for Charlotte. She also hoped her story would be a reassuring one for other parents who are faced with the same diagnosis.

Everything has turned out well and as expected at this point in time. Charlotte’s story is documented in her mother’s blog. Her archive of posts begins in July and goes to August this year with twelve entries. Each post describes a stage in the treatment regime and includes pictures and thoughts from the heart. I asked if it was alright for me to share this. More exposure to other parents would be a good thing. She said to go ahead.

Here is your link to begin with The Backstory. Once you are at the bottom of a post in the blog, go to the next posts with Newer Post button. They are heartwarming. Charlotte is beautiful. Share this story and re-blog as you see fit. Thank you Charlotte and her parents.

A County-University Biomass Project

by Jim and Melanie

We go walking several days a week. There are several routes we take from our house covering about two miles each. A few times a year we go to a park owned by the county which is a few miles from home. F. W. Kent Park is just over 1,000 acres with a lake, restored prairie, camping, education center, and hiking trails. The county board does a wonderful job of caring for the park. At this time of year, the restored prairies are in their glory with six and eight foot tall plants in full bloom. Recently, we headed for the park with a picnic lunch. After eating, we spoke with a naturalist in the education center and headed for the dense woods of pine trees in the northeast corner. We had been there last summer and really enjoyed the quiet, shade, and privacy they provided.

Heading down the trail past the pond and the low marsh land near it, things looked very familiar.

The trail turned and went uphill into a clearing as expected. To our surprise, the entire pine woods was nowhere to be seen. The only traces remaining were some ground level cut stumps and small branch debris scattered about.

Come along for the rest of this story.