Texas A&M’s New Power Generation System Saving Thousands Daily In Operating Costs

Savings of thousands of dollars per day and major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are being achieved by Texas A&M University through operation of its new combined heat and power (CHP) generation system.

University officials say the new system came on line at a particularly opportune time, with the need for reliable power State-wide at an all-time high and as the campus community copes with effects of the current heat wave.

More than $250,000 in cost was avoided in the first week that the new system became operational Aug. 1, notes James G. Riley, Texas A&M’s director for utilities and energy management. Cost-avoidance reflects what the institution would have had to pay for power provided by off-campus sources if it had to be purchased during peak load periods.

"The cost avoidance allows the university to maximize institutional funding in support of teaching, research, improvement of facilities and other programs,” Riley points out.

He says the CHP system now produces 50 to 75 percent of campus requirements, thus significantly reducing the need to purchase supplemental power from off campus. The university can even be a supplier of power when its on-campus production exceeds requirements — a likely scenario in winter months when heating requirements are high and power requirements are not at peak levels, he adds.

“This CHP project is a major investment by the university that will provide operational, financial and environmental benefits for many years to come,” Riley observes.

“In addition to reducing energy consumption and cost by 20 percent, the new CHP system will also reduce energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, allowing Texas A&M to provide great leadership in the field of energy optimization and sustainability,” he adds.

Riley says the new installation at the university’s central utility plant will provide up to 50 megawatts of reliable power generation while reducing overall energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. He indicates that optimal use of energy is even more important with the added demand for energy from several new facilities on campus.

“The new CHP system, together with other utility infrastructure improvements recently completed, places Texas A&M in the top tier of universities, with some of the most modern, efficient and reliable central utility production facilities in the nation,” he says.

The $73.25 million system is designed to operate for the next 30 years, providing reliable power and thermal energy on the institution’s 5,200-acre campus that serves almost 60,000 students, faculty and staff. The campus includes 22 million gross square feet of facilities, which represents an increase of 22 percent since 2002, supporting teaching and the university’s $630 million annual research programs.

A $10 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant helped defray CHP construction costs. Texas A&M was only one of nine DOE grant recipients nation-wide out of 450 applicants for this highly sought-after funding that was awarded based on overall project merit.

“Projected efficiency-related cost avoidance resulting from the CHP installation will offset all debt incurred with the project,” Riley explains.

“While the energy cost avoidance is significant, meaningful environmental benefits are also being achieved. The reduced energy consumption on campus results in lower greenhouse gas emissions, reducing energy dependence, and helping create a more sustainable environment,” he adds

“In addition to the financial and environmental benefits, the new CHP generation upgrade provides the university the capability to serve a significant portion of the total campus power requirement in the event of an interruption of service from the incoming campus power supply,” he explains. “The CHP project helps ensure that the balance of purchased and on-site produced power is optimized for both reliability and efficiency.”

Riley points out this CHP investment continues a tradition started in 1893 with Texas A&M self-generating both electrical power and steam for the institution.

The CHP project includes the installation of two turbine generators, two boilers, and extensive mechanical and electrical system improvements, replacing equipment that was well beyond its useful life.

For more information about the operational aspects of CHP and utilities & energy management at the university, go to http://utilities.tamu.edu/.

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