Blackhawk Biofuels quickly earns key designation

DANVILLE – Less than eight months after starting production in Danville, Blackhawk Biofuels, LLC has earned BQ-9000 Producer status from the National Biodiesel Board and the National Biodiesel Accreditation Committee.

"Today the petroleum industry is demanding biodiesel from BQ-9000 Producers," Gary Haer, vice president of sales and marketing of Renewable Energy Group, said in a news release. The company is a national biodiesel production and marketing company based in Ames, Iowa. "This certification distinguishes this strategically located, multiple feedstock facility as a high-quality fuel provider for petroleum distributors in Illinois, the greater Midwest region and distributors across the country."

AmerenIP announces plans for 138,000-volt power line

URBANA – The public will help determine where a 138,000-volt power line proposed by AmerenIP will go.

That would supply enough power for a city of 20,000 to 40,000 homes, according to the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Firefighters learn 'grain tube' technique for bin rescues

URBANA – As a trained rescue specialist, Dave Newcomb doesn't like the odds of getting someone trapped in a grain bin out alive.

"Two out of five are successful recoveries," said the veteran Urbana fire lieutenant. "First you have to expose the person, then decide if it's a rescue or a recovery."

Chemical-recycling company expanding in Champaign

CHAMPAIGN – Hudson Technologies has more than doubled the size of its refrigerant-reclamation center in Champaign and is adding more employees there.

The New York-based company opened a 48,000-square-foot center at 3402 N. Mattis Ave., C, in 2003 and recently leased another 60,000 square feet in a nearby building at 1617 Interstate Drive, C.

Decommissioning fund for Clinton back on track

CHAMPAIGN – Exelon Corp. says it has caught up on its obligations for replenishing the trust fund for decommissioning the Clinton nuclear plant – but it still hasn't put enough aside for retiring the Byron and Braidwood plants.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday notified the operators of 26 nuclear generating units across the U.S. that, as of the end of 2008, they weren't setting aside enough money to cover the units' dismantling costs.

Lawmaker blasts rate hike requests

CHAMPAIGN – State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, has begun a petition drive to oppose rate increases sought by Illinois-American Water Co. and the Ameren Illinois Utilities.

"People across the state are hurting financially, and these requests to take more money from utility customers' paychecks could not come at a worse time," she said. "Both Ameren and Illinois-American Water Co. substantially raised their rates in our region over the last year and now they want more. I find it hard to believe that these companies are hurting so badly that they need to dig deeper into the wallets of hardworking families."

UI team hoping to pile up points in national energy contest

URBANA – Would you like a house you could heat with a hair dryer? University of Illinois students are putting one together for a competition to be held in Washington.

In October, the U.S. Department of Energy will host the Solar Decathlon, and the UI is one of 20 universities to compete. A house students designed was moved here Monday from Homeway Homes in Deer Creek, which is between Peoria and Bloomington-Normal.

Villa Grove, Shiloh school districts to get technology grants

VILLA GROVE – The Villa Grove and Shiloh School Districts will have approximately $25,000 a piece to improve technology and technology education in their schools and communities this coming school year. The two districts co-wrote the grant application for the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Digital Divide Grant.

The districts have not been informed of the exact amount appropriated to the fund, but will be working with the administrators to work out the details in the coming months.

Operating room robots make surgery less painful

URBANA – Kelly Applegate spent just one night in the hospital after having a hysterectomy last month. By the following evening, she was feeling strong enough to stand up in the shower.

"I've never had any major surgery before," says Applegate, 37, of Champaign. "Outside of having a frame of reference, I'd say it was relatively easy."

Channel 3 silencing its analog signal

CHAMPAIGN – For area residents sticking with analog broadcasting to the very end, the last images they'll see on their screen will be those of Channel 3 News.

WCIA-TV and its sister station, WCFN-TV in Springfield, are among the last stations in East Central Illinois to broadcast an analog signal, and that signal will stop as of 6:30 p.m. today, said station manager Russ Hamilton.