Buildings and Grounds (B&G) began construction on a $6 million upgrade to the heating plant last June. A new boiler, which will more than double the present heat output, will replace boiler 3, which has been in operation since 1953.
The $3.3 million boiler will be complemented by a $2.7 million steam turbine, capable of creating up to 3000 kilowatts of power. The turbine is expected to supply 40 percent of the College’s power once it goes online in December 2002. This increased output will be a dramatic change from the current situation in which Massachusetts Electric provides over 90 percent of the College’s electricity.
Steve Mischissin, director of B&G, expects that the upgrades “will allow [the College] more flexibility and reliability.”
The new boiler and turbine will allow B&G to use boilers 1 and 2, built in 1965 and 1970, respectively, for backup power. Mischissin attributed the need for the upgrades to age and capacity, as all three of the existing boilers are beyond their expected 30-year life spans.
While in Mischissin’s opinion, the plant has been very well maintained, he would “like to have a reserve,” adding, “the theatre construction and other new building projects will push the 70,000 lbs. per hour capacity of the new boiler. We expect to use one of the other boilers at peak times.”
The project will bring a variety of benefits other than increased reliability. While reducing the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from the plant, the boiler and turbine are expected to save the College between $250,000 and $750,000 a year.
“Our savings are very dependant on oil and natural gas prices,” Mischissin said. “This makes our savings calculations varied, but under favorable circumstances, the project could pay for itself within five and a half to seven years.”
While the new boiler will increase fuel efficiency, the College will burn ten percent more natural resources to support the added power. Mischissin reported that the College burned 1.1 million gallons of oil in 2000 as well as 300,000 hundred cubic feet (ccf) of natural gas.
The 70,000 lbs. per hour of pressure from the new boiler will be primarily used to power the turbine. To do this, the boiler will be run at 450 psi pounds per square inch (psi) compared to the older boilers, which run at 160 psi and only produce 29,000 lbs. per hour of steam pressure.
Installation of the 141,000-pound boiler and turbine will take over a year. The main wall of the heating plant will be torn down to insert the boiler into position and more floor space will be added to the plant. Twenty-five parking spaces in the field house parking lot will be inaccessible during the installation.