OU Trustees Approve $3.5M For Design Of Lausche Plant Replacement

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The Ohio University Board of Trustees approved a resolution on Friday to allow the university to spend up to $3.5 million on a schematic design for the replacement of the Lausche Heating Plant.

Design for the new natural gas powered plant is expected to be complete in fall 2014 with construction done in late 2016. The heating plant replacement is a major component of the university’s six-year capital improvement plan.

The university has committed to phase out use of coal on campus as part of its climate action plan. Additionally, the university says that Environmental Protection Agency regulations are becoming more stringent and will make the use of coal much more difficult and expensive.

Lausche, located off Factory Street on the western portion of campus, was built in 1967 and supplies heat to all university buildings on the Athens Campus. The plant is said to meet the end of its life expectancy in 2016.

According to a memo from OU’s Vice President for Finance and Administration Stephen Golding to the Board, the university’s boiler system has also reached the end of its useful life.

“While the cost of utilizing coal is rising, the cost of gas appears to be relatively stable in the near future,” Golding wrote. “The cost of electricity is forecast to rise dramatically. In the next three years, capacity and transportation charges will likely double from the current $42 per megawatt cost. This would have a $5.5 million annual impact to the university.”

Golding continued that the new plant design will utilize natural gas as a primary fuel with the ability to generate electricity to supplement the university’s electrical power purchases. Diesel fuel will serve as a backup to the natural gas in the new plant.

“The design will be more than 85 percent efficient in converting natural gas to useful energy,” Golding wrote. “The plant produces steam year round for both heating and cooling as needed. Annual changeovers from a heating mode to a cooling mode and vice versa will no longer be necessary (with the new plant design).”

The new plant is also expected to utilize waste heat from the steam generation process to produce electricity to help manage the university’s average peak demand and supplement electrical purchases.

Lausche’s replacement is slated to be built adjacent to the current heating plant as to best utilize the existing campus wide steam and chilled water distribution system.

“The location is also adjacent to the university’s electrical substation, which will be synergistic with the electrical generation components of the project,” Golding wrote.

It’s predicted that the new plant will be able to generate enough power to run campus buildings within an hour of a power outage on the American Electric Power grid.

According to Golding, the existing Lausche Heating Plant building is planned to remain for possible future expansion of the plant and for possible use in clean coal technology research experiments. The plant won’t be used to produce steam for the campus using coal.

The university also aims to improve the architectural views of the new plant from the campus and place critical components of the plant above the newly redefined floodplain.

The university is expected to seek full approval of the heating plant replacement in March. A construction contract is planned to be awarded the same month.