UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The board of trustees at Penn State recently approved Burns and McDonnell as the consulting engineering firm for the design of steam production modifications at University Park.
The St. Louis, Mo.-based firm has “significant experience in the design and construction of large university campus heating systems, power plants and related emission control projects,” the university reports.
Al Horvath, senior vice president for finance and business/treasurer, said the university has focused on the issue of sustainable energy in their facility operations for several years.
"We discussed options for complying with upcoming federal regulatory changes, the age and capacity of the East and West Campus steam plants that heat most buildings on campus, and our commitment to meeting our sustainability goals,” Horvath said. “After considering all variables, the most viable solution to continue to heat the campus is to convert our coal-fired steam production systems to natural gas."
The coal to gas conversion for both the West and East campus steam plants is part of the school’s ongoing modernization strategy within the University’s Office of Physical Plant’s energy master plan.
The West campus steam plant, constructed in 1929, provides heat and power to 270 campus buildings and houses four coal-fired boilers from the 1960s and one 1947 boiler already converted to natural gas.
The East Campus plant, built in 1972 on Porter Road, provides steam during peak heating demands and currently operates a natural gas component.
The modifications are estimated to cost $20-35 million, a statement from the university said.
Information regarding energy production and distribution at University Park was presented to the school’s board of trustees in March 2010.
"We will continue to evolve toward more renewable sources of energy as the technology matures and solutions prove to be scalable for a University the size of Penn State," said Horvath, adding that the steam plant's modifications should be considered first steps in a long-term move toward energy solutions that address reliability, cost, compliance and sustainability.