Campus News

UGA’s change in summer steam plant operations saves money

UGA’s change in summer steam plant operations saves money and helps environment

Athens, Ga. – As part of its ongoing effort to control utility costs and manage expenses as efficiently as possible, the University of Georgia Physical Plant will modify the operation of its steam plant over the summer by shutting down its coal-fired steam boiler from May 1 – Sept. 30.

The measure should save the university at least $100,000 and offers the added benefit of helping the environment: summer is the annual time period when ozone readings are the highest.

“The university is fortunate in that it has several fuel sources to meet our building energy needs-coal, natural gas and fuel oil (diesel),” said Tim Burgess, senior vice president for finance and administration. “We are constantly analyzing the costs of these options and will continue to move between them to meet the demands of campus through the most efficient means.”

Natural gas pricing has dropped to historically low levels, making the use of natural gas a viable alternative to coal this summer, according to Ken Crowe, the physical plant’s director of energy services. The physical plant has made an advance purchase of the natural gas that will be required to operate the steam plant over the summer.

“Ultimately, the operational change should prove to be an enhancement that provides UGA and the local community with both economic and environmental benefits,” Crowe said. “Steam is used in most campus buildings over the summer for dehumidification, domestic hot water, cleaning, and research processes such as sterilization. However, because we have been taking proactive steps to improve our steam operations and reduce steam requirements, this change will not impair campus steam availability.”

The physical plant is working closely with the University of Georgia’s Biorefining and Carbon Cycling Program the Faculty of Engineering Outreach Service to determine the best long-term alternative to replace the steam production currently provided by the coal-fired boiler. Their study will encompass analysis and potential deployment of new technologies to reduce both the operating costs and the environmental impact of energy generation on campus. However, Crowe points out that neither the funding source nor a timetable for development of this project has been identified at this time.