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Plant Sets Energy Goals

Neil O'Dougherty | Wednesday, September 29, 2010

To respond to the University’s financial needs and an increased sensitivity for the environment, Notre Dame’s utilities department has set many long-term goals to improve the University’s energy efficiency, Director of Utilities Paul Kempf said.

The Notre Dame utilities plant on the north end of campus provides the University with many of its basic requirements for operation such as heating, cooling and electricity.

The plant uses three different inputs, coal, natural gas and oil, to turn warm water into steam. The steam is used to turn the turbine on an electric generator and is in turn used again to provide campus buildings with heat in the winter or steam for cooling in the summer.

This process, because it simultaneously co-generates both power and heat, allows the plant to operate nearly twice as efficiently as most industrial plants, Kempf said.

At both economic and environmental levels, the University improves efficiency by operating its own power plant, Kempf said.

“A typical electric-only generating station is only 30-35 percent efficient in turning the heat from combustion into real work,” Kempf said. “In our case, since we produce two useful forms of energy, we have a cycle efficiency that is on the order of 60 percent.”

The plant, which exclusively serves campus, provides the University with over half of its power supply, all of its heating and chilled water. It also produces the required inputs for buildings’ air conditioning and hot water supplies.

The plant has been operating since 1931, when it began as just a heating plant. The facility expanded to produce electricity in 1953.

In recent years, the plant has been undergoing constant improvements to increase its functionality and control its emissions, Kempf said. The plant features computer models that monitor operations and emissions.

Recent upgrades include a new power plant control system platform, enhanced air-quality control systems and the installation of new and larger economizers on many of the boilers to reduce fuel consumption.

The utilities department has also implemented many campus-wide initiatives. With the extensive growth in campus buildings in recent years, the department has offered engineering support to the Office of the University Architect for all new campus buildings and renovation projects.

Such energy improvements have been manifested with the construction of several LEED-certified buildings, such as Geddes and Stinson-Remmick Halls. Renovations in other buildings conducted by the Utilities Department have included more efficient lighting system and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades.

As a result, campus electrical demand has increased much less than its overall growth in operations.

These efforts have allowed the University to improve its overall energy efficiency. By the end of June 2010, the reduction in the campus’ energy baseline since 2008 has been nearly eight percent for electricity and 10 percent for fuel input.

“These savings have provided both environmental and financial improvements for the University,” Kempf said.

The department, in its supervision of the utilities plant and its overall function, has set many goals for future improvement as well.

“Our goals going forward are threefold: continue to be reliable, compliant and cost effective,” Kempf said.