Tractors have been excavating the earth and piling dirt on a construction site by Alexander Lane, across from the front entrance of Messa Rink, for two months now. Cordoned off by a green fence, students may question what is going on behind this dig-down.
Construction is in full swing in constructing a combined heat and power generator for the college, known as a cogeneration plant.
The cogeneration plant broke ground on Aug. 3, 2015, with substantial progress made as construction enters the second month.
The design team consisted of Bette Cring company, acting as Project Manager, CHA Associates as the Engineers of Record and Cogen Power Technologies as the Cogen Integrator.
Structural foundations have been completed, to be soon followed by the precast installation of structural steel and the erection of the building enclosure over the next couple months.
The building’s structure will be completed by the end of the year. Completion of the structure will then be followed by six months of internal system configuration, such as bringing in all the equipment and installing ancillary piping and ductwork before the cogeneration plant can be interconnected by July 2016.
Interconnection is when the cogeneration plant is considered fully operational and able to run parallel with National Grid, the college’s existing utility supplier.
During this process, the plant will undergo “lots of tweaking and tuning” for about a month or two after July 2016, in order to make sure that the components are running properly, according to Assistant Director of Facilities Marc Donovan.
Facilities Services will be responsible for the operations and maintenance of the cogeneration plant. “Our boiler house staff will be trained fully in the cogeneration plant proper, but also we will have service agreements with contractors for maintaining the turbines and absorption chiller,” explained Donovan.
The cogeneration plant has undergone various design iterations before finally settling on a gas-driven turbine, based on the college’s existing thermal profile.
Cogeneration plants can be powered by a variety of means, including biomass, turbines or engines.
The college’s existing boiler plant is only compatible for generating steam that is then distributed around the campus, and natural gas is the desired fuel choice. These factors limited the cogeneration type to be turbine-based. Other cogeneration types use other inputs for fuel or do not generate steam power.
The cogeneration plant is fuelled by natural gas, which is combusted in a turbine to generate electricity and steam.
Much of the wasted heat that would be normally lost to the environment from the stacks of a traditional generator will be reused internally under the cogeneration process to produce electricity and steam that would meet much of the college’s heating, cooling and power needs.
The essence of cogeneration is that it uses a single source to fuel a single, combined process of heat and power generation.
The cogeneration plant will reduce future reliance on aging infrastructure by providing 75 percent of the power, 87 percent of the cooling, and 97 percent of the heating needs of the college.
Cogeneration will increase efficiency and reduce electricity consumption by as much as 17 million kilowatt hours by generating its own power as well as an avoidance of 1.8 million kWh through the reuse of steam into the absorption chiller which reduces the existing electric chillers’ load. This will allow the college to realize substantial energy savings.
When cogeneration comes online in July 2016, the college’s existing boiler plants will operate only on standby and will no longer operate full till.
“Our traditional methods are changing dramatically,” remarked Donovan.
With implementation of the cogeneration plant well within sight, the college is looking towards steps to build a sustainable and renewable energy future with cogeneration.
The cogeneration plant will provide simultaneous heating and cooling.
This will allow the college to enhance its methods of dehumidification and not have to draw on additional electricity to create heat while in the cooler seasons.
The electrical generation of the cogeneration plant will shrink the college’s greenhouse gas emissions by 7,416 tons, which is the equivalent of removing 1,290 cars from the road.
The ancillary benefits of cogeneration, such as repurposing steam for dehumidification, will only help further carbon reduction beyond the design.
The future beyond cogeneration is one of untapped potential, waiting to be unlocked. The college is exploring other options for renewable energy.
“We are actively investigating on several renewable types that would include solar, hydropower and everything else to forward ourselves in our carbon goals,” explained Donovan.
The cogeneration plant will be a physical expression of the college’s commitment to sustainability and accelerated carbon reduction goals.
“The plant is an investment for the College that has a large impact to our sustainability goals but also resolves the power issues from campus growth and the limiting power supply from National Grid,” concluded Donovan.