The University of Rochester will upgrade its current utility plant to enable “cogeneration”—simultaneously producing electricity and the steam used to heat and cool River Campus and Medical Center buildings, and using no more fuel than if only steam was produced.
It’s anticipated that the first of two projects for the $42.8 million upgrade will begin in the spring of this year and that both will be completed by the summer of 2006. The cogeneration initiative is expected to pay for itself in seven years through the savings possible by generation, rather than purchase, of electricity.
One project at the plant, which borders Elmwood Avenue, involves the installation of a low pressure steam turbine. The University also will remove the last vestiges of the coal fired era, including an inactive coal boiler, ash silo, and brick chimney. The steam lines—a full quarter of which were installed during the 1920s and 1930s—also will be replaced with lines sending hot water, instead of steam, to buildings in the winter months.
The second project involves the installation of a new, high-pressure boiler and high-pressure steam turbine.
The plant will continue to operate on natural gas, with oil as a backup fuel source.
“We’ve looked at cogeneration many times over the years, and now we have a plan that will work well for the University,” said Ronald Paprocki, senior vice president for administration and finance and CFO. “We’re using what’s now considered ‘mainstream technology’ in cogeneration and have a high degree of confidence in how well it will work. We’ll be taking care of campus needs much more efficiently.”
The plant will operate in a “thermal following” mode, meaning that the amount of electricity generated depends on how much steam is needed at any given moment. It’s anticipated that the plant will produce approximately 77 million kilowatt hours per year. When the upgrade is completed in mid-2006, the plant will produce more than half of the annual electric requirement of the University’s River Campus and Medical Center without increasing the amount of fuel used. In emergency situations, the University will be able to produce sufficient power—for extended periods of time—to support critical health, education, and research functions.
The list of higher education institutions that now have cogeneration plants is extensive (see www.energy.rochester.edu/us/list.htm) and includes Cornell and Syracuse universities.