Utilities & Energy Services Production & Distribution

Girl scouts getting tour at Abbott Power Plant.

UES is responsible for supplying the energy used on campus through production and purchasing. The university purchases about half of the electricity used on campus through Prairieland Energy, Inc. (PEI), a subsidiary wholly-owned by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. On-campus generation comes primarily from two sources –Abbott Power Plant, the Campus Chilled Water System (CCWS). Additionally, we have several renewable energy installations throughout campus. As a cogeneration facility, Abbott Power Plant supplies 75% of the campus’ energy through generated steam and electricity, maintaining a careful balance between safety, reliability, sustainability, and cost-efficiency. During low campus demand for both heat and air conditioning, Abbott typically burns natural gas. During the winter months, when the campus heat load is highest, a combination of both coal and natural gas is necessary.

Extensive underground piping connects the majority of campus buildings to the five CCWS production plants. Twenty-three chillers (steam and electric) deliver the necessary chilled water to operate building air conditioning systems. A 6.5 million-gallon Thermal Energy Storage (TES) tank, built in 2010, can provide 50,000 ton-hours to help meet the cooling demand on campus.

F&S is committed to renewable energy solutions for campus. There are numerous operating solar installations, with a variety ranging from utility-scale arrays to multi-acre solar beds.


Utilities & Energy Services (UES) Distribution is responsible for the planning, operation, maintenance, safety, and security of utility-distribution systems on the Urbana campus. UES Distribution is responsible for electrical, steam, natural gas, chilled water, and water (including raw water, sanitary sewer, and storm sewer). These utilities are produced by UES Production or come via connections to local public utilities. Utility meters are located at each building.

Tunnels and piping systems are for utilities distribution to campus and for authorized personnel use only.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires UES to construct and maintain a Facility Response Plan to address leaks and spills. A team must be available to respond to spills 24/7. Mandatory annual emergency response drills are held with local fire departments and other emergency-response agencies.

Renewable Energy

The Urbana chancellor signed the Climate Leadership Commitments, pledging to be carbon neutral by 2050. As a part of this commitment, specific goals for energy conservation and renewable energy were outlined in the Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP). Efforts to meet university renewable energy goals include the wind power purchase agreement (PPA), the operation of major solar installations, and the purchase of renewable energy certificates.

Wind Power Purchase Agreement

From November 2016 through October 2026, the Urbana campus will receive a percentage-based portion of the wind-generated electricity and associated environmental attributes from the Rail Splitter Wind Farm located north of Lincoln, Illinois. The PPA specifies that 8.6% of the total wind generation from the farm will be sold to the university, which is expected to be an annual amount of more than 25,000 megawatt-hours (MWh). Actual purchased wind power is shared monthly on the Wind PPA iCAP Portal project page.

Solar Installations    

There are eight major solar installations currently generating electrical power for the Urbana campus. The Solar Farm is one of the largest on-site university arrays in the country, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency statistics.

In January 2021, Solar Farm 2.0 came online. This 54-acre, 12.3 megawatt Solar Farm will just about triple the University’s on-site generation of renewable energy. This increase in generated power will allow the university to meet the 2015 iCAP objective regarding on-campus solar energy, which aims to generate 25,000 megawatt-hours per year (MWh/year) of solar energy.

In addition to Solar Farm 1.0 and 2.0, there are solar installations at the Business Instructional Facility, Allerton Park, the Activities and Recreation Center, the Business Research Council Laboratory, Wassaja Residence Hall, and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Building.

The 20.8-acre Solar Farm, designed, built, and operated by Phoenix Solar South Farms LLC, produces an estimated 7,200 MWh/year or approximately 2% of the annual electrical demand for the Urbana campus. The Solar Farm is located on the south side of Windsor Road between First Street and the railroad tracks.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has a 10-year power purchase agreement with Phoenix Solar to deliver all electricity produced by the Solar Farm directly to the campus grid. In addition, the University will own/receive all current and future Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and emission credits associated with energy from the 5.87 MWdc Solar Farm.

Referred to as “Solar Farm 2.0,” a new 54-acre, 12.32 megawatt (MWdc) utility scale array is located on campus, north of Curtis Road, between First Street and Dunlap Avenue, near the Village of Savoy.
Solar Farm 2.0 will produces approximately 20,000 megawatt-hours per year (MWh/year), nearly tripling the university’s existing on-site renewable energy generation.
The University of Illinois is the third-largest user of renewable power produced on campus for all higher education facilities in the entire country.
The design features 31,122 bifacial solar panels. The modules produce energy on both sides. Energy is captured on the back of the panels by collecting sunlight that is reflected off of the ground. 
Renewable electricity production helps meet sustainability goals outlined in the Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP), campus’ plan for mitigating climate change. Learn more at

There are 4,000 square feet of solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Business Instructional Facility. This was the first production rooftop solar array installed on a campus building. The solar panels have a combined maximum output of 40 kWh per hour. The solar panels are expected to produce approximately 8% of the building’s total electricity demand. You can find more detailed information about the project here.

The installation of 950 AC panels on top of the ECE Building is expected to contribute about 1/5 of all electricity needs for the building, which is a large step in achieving the campus’ goal of reducing overall energy emissions.

Electricity generation is not the only feature to this project, as about sixty of the panels have been set aside for engaging student learning and assist in the university’s energy related-research. These research panels connect directly to the ECE ILLINOIS Advanced Power Applications Laboratory, giving students direct access to these panels.

Southern-facing solar panels located on the roof of the Wassaja Residence Hall provide 33 kW of power to the building.

Installation of a 24-panel, gravity fed solar-thermal system on the roof of the ARC significantly reduces steam usage for domestic (i.e. showers and sinks) and pool hot water during normal operating periods.

Master Plan

The Utilities Production and Distribution Master Plan addresses Illinois’ energy future. The plan, approved by the Chancellor’s Capital Review Committee in September 2015, is a recognized report associated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign master planning process.

The Utilities Production and Distribution Master Plan focused on three main tasks:

1) Evaluating existing production and distribution services

2) Analyzing potential load options

3) Providing universal recommendations

The plan assessed infrastructure requirements to meet future energy needs. The projections were based on campus input regarding space utilization and growth scenarios, as well as further investments in energy conservation. The plan assisted with evaluating how the university can best achieve Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) targets for low-carbon energy sources.

Model scenarios were developed for estimated growth and associated impacts related to forecasts for steam, electricity, and chilled water. The plan also examined production and distribution systems to establish an updated baseline and provide costs to repair, replace, operate, and maintain existing systems. As part of this process, university stakeholders generated more than 200 concepts for review.

To fulfill the strategic goals of the university and ensure excellence, it is imperative that utilities infrastructure be maintained and developed to meet future demands.

Related Providers

Utilities & Energy Services

Utilities & Energy Services (UES) is continuously upgrading to provide safe, reliable, environmentally compliant, cost-effective energy and other utilities to support campus.

Tour group at Abbott Power Plant