COLLEGE STATION, Sept. 1, 2010 — Texas A&M University has been awarded a $10 million grant by the U.S. Department of Energy to help fund a new combined heat and power (CHP) generation system to meet growing energy needs for 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 that also support the university’s $600 million annual research programs.
The grant, which will help upgrade the university’s energy-generation system while also making it more cost-effective and reducing greenhouse emissions, was jointly announced by DOE and U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, whose congressional district includes the Bryan/College Station area.
“Texas A&M and the U.S. Department of Energy have long been productive partners when it comes to advancing U.S. energy policy, expanding domestic energy sources and strengthening our national security,” said Edwards. “This grant will support the world-class research at Texas A&M by helping the university to upgrade and expand power capacity, increase energy efficiency, and reduce costs. The new CHP system is an example of Texas A&M’s continued national leadership toward a new energy future.”
The new CHP generation equipment is being installed at the university’s central utility plant and is scheduled to be operational by August 2011, replacing generation equipment that was beyond its useful life, noted James G. Riley, Texas A&M’s director for utilities and energy management.
A funding request for the $10 million award was submitted to DOE by the university in 2009.
The federal grant will facilitate the university’s construction of the $70.25 million CHP project authorized last year by The Texas A&M University board of regents to meet the institution’s power and steam generation needs for many years in a highly cost-effective manner, Riley said.
“The new CHP system, together with other utility infrastructure improvements recently completed or in progress, will place Texas A&M in the top tier of universities, having some of the most modern, efficient, and reliable central utility production facilities in the nation,” he explained.
He added that the project will allow the university to provide up to 50 megawatts of reliable power generation while reducing overall energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Riley indicated that optimal use of energy is even more important with the added demand for energy from a number of new facilities on campus.
A separate funding request recently resulted in Texas A&M receiving another DOE award of almost $750,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to train building equipment technicians to help the nation “achieve the full potential of energy-efficient — and eventually net-zero energy — buildings, according to DOE’s announcement of awards to a host of universities and organizations.
“These projects will help the United States lead the world in advancing energy-efficient technologies,” noted U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Energy-efficient commercial buildings will help our country cut its carbon emissions and energy costs while training programs will upgrade the skills of the current work force and attract the next generation to careers in the emerging clean-energy economy.”
Texas A&M’s $10 million CHP grant was made available with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding, administered by DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. The grant to Texas A&M was one of only nine awarded in a competitive nationwide pool that attracted more than 400 funding applications, DOE officials noted.
Riley said the university completed its grant negotiations with DOE for an initial $7 million in June 2010 and was notified in July that the full $10 million will be made available to the university following successful completion of an environmental assessment provision.
Construction on the CHP project is under way in the central utility plant, which also includes the installation of almost two miles of electrical duct bank and feeders on campus. Major construction work on the project will continue through the end of 2011. A separate but related project will install a one mile natural gas pipeline from the intersection of Texas Avenue and University Drive to the central utility plant, providing a highly reliable natural gas supply to the plant for many years to come.
The CHP project includes the installation of two turbine generators and a boiler, replacing equipment beyond its useful life at the central utility plant with larger and more efficient generation equipment, an upgrade of the electrical distribution system, and other improvements.
“Projected efficiency-related cost avoidance resulting from the CHP installation will offset all debt to be incurred with the project, and more, with the DOE grant reducing the total amount that the university must finance. The new CHP system will also reduce university greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy consumption by over 30 percent,” Riley said.
“In addition to the financial and environmental benefits, the new CHP generation upgrade will provide the university with 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 added. “The CHP project will help ensure that the balance of purchased and on-site produced power is optimized for both reliability and efficiency.”
He pointed out that this investment in CHP continues a tradition started in 1893 with Texas A&M self-generating both electrical power and steam for the institution. The central generation and distribution of chilled water to cool campus facilities was added later, with capacity of over 50,000 tons now available to cool campus buildings from four different utility plants. Riley indicated that the existing plant chiller capacity is enough to cool over 15,000 average size homes.
He pointed out that overall energy consumption on campus has been reduced by 23 percent over the past eight years despite an increase of 18 percent in the gross square footage of facilities served.
“This reduction in total energy consumption means that the university is now consuming 35 percent less energy than it was eight years ago, when calculated on a basis of consumption per square foot. Energy efficiency improvements and conservation have resulted in cost avoidance totaling over $106 million since 2002, but there is still much more progress to be made to optimize the use of energy in campus facilities,” Riley emphasized.
With the recent addition of several new facilities at Texas A&M, square footage in the hundreds of buildings on campus has increased from 18.5 million gross square feet in 2002 to 22 million in 2010.
“While the energy cost avoidance achieved is significant, meaningful environmental benefits are also being achieved. In addition to the financial benefits, the reduced energy consumption on campus also results in lower green house gas emissions, reducing energy dependence, and helping create a more sustainable environment,” Riley added. ”The cost avoidance allows the university to maximize institutional funding in support of teaching, research, improvement of facilities and other programs.”
He said the efficiencies and savings derived to date are the result of several key initiatives, including improved plant operation, installation of new high-efficiency chillers and boilers to add capacity and replace aging equipment, upgrading plant monitoring and control systems, implementing a predictive/preventive maintenance program, and performance indicators to minimize “down time” while optimizing efficiency. “Improved utility plant operating reliability and forecasting have also allowed for a better decision-making process to support energy procurement,” he noted.
A number of other initiatives to improve efficiency and conservation have been implemented in the buildings on campus, to reduce energy consumption further and save money while ensuring customer needs are met. Riley pointed out an example of the building efficiency improvement program with 24 facilities that have been identified to receive air conditioning and heating control system and lighting upgrades. Two low interest (2 percent) rate loans were applied for by the university and approved by the Texas State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) which will allow $15 million in improvements to be made in these 24 buildings. Riley said, “The opportunity to obtain this low interest financing was also made available to SECO with federal ARRA funding, and Texas A&M has again demonstrated foresight and leadership to apply for and obtain more of this approved funding than any other institution in Texas.”
Riley added, “When these improvements are completed in the 24 campus facilities, customer comfort and efficiency will both be improved, with cost avoidance from energy consumption reduction funding the repayment of the $15 million loan amount over 10 years.”
The Texas A&M board of regents has approved the addition of these $15 million in lighting and control system upgrades to the university capital plan and approval will be requested at the September board of regents meeting to allow construction of the upgrades to proceed. If approved in September as proposed, the upgrades will be completed in the 24 facilities by the end of 2011.
Riley concluded, “Providing world class utilities and energy management at Texas A&M, while being innovative to access available funding, is essential to most effectively serve the mission of the university.”