UI to get new power plant, other energy upgrades - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UI to get new power plant, other energy upgrades

IOWA CITY (KWWL) - The University of Iowa is pushing for a new power plant to provide electricity and steam for buildings on the west side of campus. The need for new power plant became apparent when the existing one was flooded and shut down two years ago.

"That one facility on the east side of the campus is the only source of steam for the campus, both the east and the west," said Ferman Milster, with the University Utilities and Energy Management. Milster says that shutdown caused severe interruptions for buildings campus wide. The plant was constructed in the 1920's and its newest boiler was installed more than two decades ago.

"It's getting some age on it, and we need to look to the future."

That future will include a new power plant, twice as efficient as the old one, and will be fired with natural gas. Milster explained that natural gas can be more expensive than the fuels being burned at the existing facility, "but because of the efficiency, there'll be certain times of the year when it will be more economical to run that new plant, even with the higher fuel cost."

It would link up to the district energy system, and supply steam to dozens of university buildings. The old plant would remain operational, as a location for research on new biomass fuels. It's all part of the university's growing "Green Energy Initiative," which includes a small wind turbine, and solar panels on the Cambus maintenance facility.

The university's Oakdale Campus plant will also receive upgrades. The goal is to get 100-percent of its energy output from renewable sources.

"We'll burn landfill gas from the City of Iowa City to make electric power, and make thermal energy...and install a new modern biomass boiler, so we'll be making our steam with biomass."

Funding for that project will come from a $950,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The Iowa Board of Regents approved planning for the new plant, with a price tag of at least $70 million dollars. The Finkbine parking lot will make up at least part of the building site, because of its high elevation and low risk of flooding. The goal is to have it completed by 2013.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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