The Campus Chronicle
Vol. XVII, Issue 38
for the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts
July 12, 2002

 Page One Grain & Chaff Obituaries Letters to the Chronicle Archives Feedback Weekly Bulletin

 Page One Grain & Chaff Obituaries Letters to the Chronicle Archives Feedback Weekly Bulletin




Site chosen for central heating plant

by Barbara Pitoniak, News Office staff

Long a mainstay of the campus skyline, the central steam plant could be demolished in 2006 after a planned new facility goes into operation.

Long a mainstay of the campus skyline, the central steam plant could be demolished in 2006 after a planned new facility goes into operation.

A new central heating plant for the campus will be constructed on the west side of campus, adjacent to Route 116 and the Amherst wastewater treatment plant, in the town of Hadley. Plans call for the existing heating plant on Campus Center Way to be demolished once the new plant becomes operational, according to James Cahill, director of Facilities Planning.

     "This project is one of the most significant permitting, design, and construction efforts undertaken by the University in the last 25 years," Cahill said. "We have carefully considered the environmental, economic, technical, and community concerns affected by the siting of such an important energy facility. We're pleased to be moving forward with this project as it is essential to provide reliable steam to service the existing campus buildings and future campus development."

     The site location was selected by campus officials and the University of Massachusetts Building Authority, after an extensive site evaluation process conducted with the assistance of Vanderweil Engineers Inc., of Boston.

     The $80-million central heating plant project is being funded through the building authority.

     Four potential sites were considered for construction of the new facility: a location adjacent to the existing central heating plant; the Tillson Farm heating plant, which included a plan for renovation and expansion; an area north of Governors Drive across from the PVTA bus garage; and the location adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant.

     According to Cahill, the Tillson Farm, Campus Center Way, and Governors Drive sites were eliminated because of cost considerations, traffic and wetland impacts, and conflicts with the campus master plan.

     He said the selected site near the Amherst wastewater treatment plant offers many positive attributes for the campus and its neighboring communities. "By replacing the existing, 60-year-old heating plant and co-locating it with the wastewater treatment facility, the new heating plant will significantly conserve natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas and ozone-producing air emissions, while providing steam and electric energy to the campus both reliably and economically."

     Locating the plant near campus steam, condensate, and electric distribution systems will make plant operations more efficient and less costly, Cahill said. In addition, an existing service road provides convenient access for fuel deliveries. The location also provides a buffer zone between the proposed plant, local neighborhoods, and the campus community.

     The central heating plant, to be designed by Vanderweil Engineers Inc., and Cambridge Seven As-sociates Inc., will burn both fuel oil and natural gas. (The existing plant primarily burns coal, with oil and natural gas used to supplement the coal firing.) It will pro-duce steam to heat campus buildings and to run chillers used for building air conditioning systems. A gas turbine generator will produce electricity to meet the base campus electric load of 10 megawatts, or about 10 million watts per hour.

     Two new, 20-inch main steam lines will run underground in a concrete trench from the heating plant to connect with the existing campus steam and condensate distribution piping systems. A new steam connection and condensate return pump building will be located near the west side of the Campus Center parking garage.

     The new plant is expected to have significant environmental benefits, said Cahill. "A substantial reduction in air pollutants will result from the elimination of coal burning," he says. "Sulfur dioxide emissions will be cut by nearly a half million pounds per year from existing emission levels." In addition, Cahill noted, the emission of nitrogen oxides, which contributes to the production of ozone, could be reduced by 300,000 pounds, or 150 tons.

     Also, during a typical winter day, Cahill explains, the existing heating plant uses approximately 250,000 gallons of water from the Amherst public water supply system and its wells. "The University hopes to reuse the effluent discharge, or gray water, from the Amherst wastewater treatment facility to make steam in the new plant, and conserve the town's natural water supply," said Cahill.

     The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA) will monitor environmental permitting requirements for the new plant. The DEP has approved the air modeling procedures to be used by the building authority to assess any potential environmental impacts caused by the new heating plant.

     The building authority will submit an Expanded Environmental Notification Form to EOEA this summer. The permitting process is expected to take about a year.

     Cahill says the University hopes to have all environmental permits in hand to break ground for the plant in the fall of 2003. Construction will take about two years. The facility is expected to begin start-up operations by December 2005.

     Plans calls for demolishing the existing heating plant and its chimneys and fuel-handling facilities in 2006. Much of the debris from the demolition of the building and the dismantling of equipment will be recycled, Cahill said.

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