In their search for alternative energy resources, researchers at the University of Illinois have access to this gigantic “living laboratory”
The Energy Farm’s highly developed infrastructure on the University of Illinois farms supports advanced research requiring power and communications for instrumentation and data intensive studies. Four 9 acre fields are currently instrumented with Eddy Flux towers that collect high frequency data on CO2 fluxes, energy balance, and water use efficiency. In 2016, that number of flux towers will be expanded with two more tower sites. To support the data transfer from these research sites, a hybrid fiber optic / wireless system allows the transfer of data back to intermediate server storage locations on the Energy Farm before transfer to on campus servers.
To compliment above ground measurements fields are individually tiled and instrumented to allow collection of ground water moving to the eventual destination in the Gulf of Mexico. These instrumented fields automatically collect samples allowing a comparison of biofuel crops to traditional row crop field. Two additional fields are scheduled for the installation of tile sampling systems in Fall 2016.
In addition to the power and data infrastructure, half of the current acres have water lines installed that allow for irrigation of plots as required for either experimental design or to mitigate research loss from droughts. The remaining land encompassing the farm is within proximity of water supplies to allow irrigation utilizing temporary surface piping. Three irrigation reels are available to allow for covering large acreage as dictated by the experiment.