Updated Thu, Jan 26, 2012 9:22 am
The Lausche Heating Plant, located on Ohio University’s West Green, will switch from operating on coal to natural gas in 2014.
OU’s Board of Trustees met on Friday in Lancaster to discuss possible alternatives for the 45-year-old heating plant.
The plant currently runs entirely on coal and provides heat to most of Ohio’s campus buildings.
The Environmental Protection Agency emissions regulations and a commitment to sustainability have led the university to change much of the way it produces energy.
The renovation of the facility is included in a $977 million, six-year capital improvement plan, which includes the renovations of many residential halls.
The move to natural gas will save the university more than $3 million per year beginning in 2025.
Annual fuel costs are expected in 2014 to double in the first few years, but with the construction of energy efficient combustion turbines that cost will drop.
After renovations are complete the building will produce steam to heat the university and it will also provide electricity to a majority of the campus.
Assistant Director of Ohio Utilities and Management Clyde Pierce said the switch to natural gas has been under consideration for more than a decade, but high costs associated with natural gas and the reconstruction of existing facilities stopped the university from ending its coal usage.
“Yeah, most people don’t realize it, but we use natural gas almost every year during the winter,” Pierce said. “It’s used as backup in case we have a few cold days and the coal just won’t do the job.”
The switch requires major structural changes to the existing facility and is expected to cost anywhere from $200 to $300 million-most of which will come from private lending.
“This particular instance, just like the housing project, will be taken care of through our debt service,” said Student Trustee Danielle Parker. “So basically the university will take on debt and later develop a plan for paying that back.”
Current workers at the Lausche facility will not be out of work when the plant begins using natural gas.
They will not lose their jobs, but will rather take on different responsibilities.
“No I don’t think we’ll see any job loss over this,” Pierce said. ”I can tell you we are going to see more turbines and more boilers over in the power plant when we start running completely on natural gas.”