University of Illinois Abbott Power Plant

From Global Energy Monitor

Abbott Power Plant is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by the University of Illinois near UI campus in Champaign, Illinois.

Sharita Forrest recounts the history of the Abbott Power Plant:[1]

Since Abbott was built in 1941, the fuel source for the plant’s boilers has changed several times as the university sought to operate the plant as economically as possible. Abbott’s boilers were all fired by coal when the plant began operating in 1941, but in the early 1970s the campus discontinued burning coal and switched to natural gas, which was to be provided by Illinois Power Co. But when Illinois Power didn’t receive a sufficient allocation to meet the UI’s energy needs, Abbott had to burn fuel oil instead.
In 1978, Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson asked the UI to convert Abbott back to coal to boost the state’s coal industry by demonstrating that the high-sulfur coal mined in Illinois could be burned safely. The plant uses electrostatic precipitators to remove particulates and a wet scrubber to remove potentially hazardous sulfur dioxide, which can cause respiratory problems, from the plant’s flue gases before they are released into the atmosphere. “The wet scrubber technology that we have for flue gas scrubbing is one of, if not the, best available today, and it has been in place for about 20 years,” Larson said.

On Jan. 26, 2001, an explosion and fire at the Abbott Power Plant caused the plant to be shut down for most of the day, shutting off power to three-quarters of campus. Classes were cancelled for the day, and most employees were sent home.[2]

In May 2010, the University pledged to stop using coal within seven years as part of a plan to reduce energy use and cut carbon emissions: the Illinois Climate Action Plan, finalized that month. The plan was developed by the campus Sustainability Council. It was submitted to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, signed by more than 600 schools. The UI is the first Big Ten school to formally submit a climate plan.[3]

To meet its goals, UI is considering alternative fuels that could be used by Abbott Power Plant or another central generation facility, officials said. University buildings – which account for 85 percent of the campus's energy use – are primarily heated by steam produced at Abbott. The plant also produces electricity as a byproduct, with the UI buying additional electricity from private suppliers. Abbott runs primarily on natural gas and coal, with the fuel mix decided by market costs, according to UI officials. The sustainability team concluded that Abbott's natural gas capacity can provide almost enough steam to meet campus demand by itself and should be able to do so in a few years if conservation trends continue. The campus burned 94,171 tons of coal in fiscal 2009, although that figure has dropped 30 percent in fiscal 2010 so far, said Tom Abram, sustainability coordinator in UI Facilities and Services.[3]

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Plant Data

  • Owner: University of Illinois
  • Parent Company: State of Illinois
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 47.0 MW (Megawatts)
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 7.5 MW (1959), 7.5 MW (1962), 12.5 MW (2004), 12.5 MW (2004), 7.0 MW (2004)
  • Location: 1117 S. Oak St., Champaign, IL 61820 (just NE of soccer fields)
  • GPS Coordinates: 40.104669, -88.242254
  • Electricity Production: 20,429 MWh (2005)
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • CO2 Emissions:
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  • SO2 Emissions per MWh:
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Articles and Resources


  1. Sharita Forrest, "Providing efficient heating, cooling is a changing game," Inside Illinois, 2/19/09
  2. Fast work by campus crews restores power after fire at Abbott Power Plant causes widespread outage, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign News Bureau, Feb. 1, 2001.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Julie Wurth, "UI promises to stop coal use by 2017, take other steps to lower energy use" The News Gazette, May 25, 2010.

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