Generator to supply clean energy

By and

Thanks to a new heating and electricity generator, the U will be more environmentally friendly after this month.

A new steam co-generation system will supply more than 10 percent of the U’s electricity needs and produce heat for most of lower campus.

“It’s not only a more energy-efficient system, but it will eventually pay for itself in energy savings,” said Stephen Laraway, manager of the co-generation project.

The co-generator uses a turbine to spin the generator, supplying campus with electricity and heat. The system then captures the excess gas, instead of expelling it into the atmosphere, and uses it to heat all of lower campus for most of the year. The gas heats water that runs through pipes to generate heat in buildings on lower campus.

Plant operations began investigating co-generators three years ago because they wanted to supply cheap and sustainable heat and electricity. The new system costs $18.3 million, but could potentially save $2.8 million annually on electricity and heating costs. The system will likely pay for itself within the next 12 years, and then begin saving the U money, said Orfeo Kostrencich, associate director for plant operations.

The new co-generators will also boost plant operations’ energy efficiency from 75 percent to more than 90 percent.

“With just a little more natural gas, we can heat the entire campus on this one system,” Laraway said.

The generator might be a stepping stone to other clean energy technology, said Jen Colby, the U’s sustainability coordinator.

“In the future, one of the major challenges will be reducing our energy consumption — this is a really big step in the right direction,” she said.

The system has added benefits that make it more sustainable than the one Utah State University has, because it reduces the amount of nitrous oxide gases emitted into the air, Laraway said. The gases, which most heating and electricity systems emit into the air, will be reduced by almost half.

Most buildings along lower campus will be closed Sunday while the system is installed. The whole electrical system must be shut down to make installation safe for workers.

“You wouldn’t take the bulb out of a light without first turning the light off unless you want to be electrocuted,” Laraway said. “We’re shutting down power for the same reason.”

The system will be located in the plant operations building across from the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

The co-generator won’t provide electricity for the U for another two months while tests are run.

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After a three-year investigation, the U will start the new energy-efficient generator this Sunday. The new steam generator will supply more than 10 percent of the U’s electricity.