Duke University takes flak over power plant plan
- October 21, 2016
- 846 views
A proposed collaboration between
The project, in early stages of the regulatory process, calls for
Once in operation, the plant would generate electricity for
The turbine's fuel, natural gas, a greenhouse pollutant, is what's drawing objections from groups like the
Both want the university to suspend work on the project pending a campus review of it that gives students and faculty each a third of the say over the result.
"An energy decision of this magnitude must be preceded by a full, transparent review that includes the voices of the students, faculty and community members who will live with the climate, environmental and public health impacts of this project," said
The application reckons that construction could begin as soon as the first quarter of 2017, and variously estimates the plant could be up and running early in 2018 or in the first half of 2019.
It also says the facility would be "the first of its kind" in
One is financial: The power company reckons the plant will generate steam less expensively than the university's existing steam plants.
Another is redundancy. The plant's design will allow it to feed the campus electrical grid if there's a widespread power outage of the sort that usually follows a hurricane, blizzard or ice storm.
Duke's hospital has 100-percent backup for such events via diesel generators, but the campus proper isn't nearly as well-protected from a major power failure, said
And even diesel generators can fail, either by breaking under load or from running out of fuel because of supply-chain disruptions, Thompson said. He noted that the federal government, from the
Finally, campus officials reckon that the plant despite its reliance on natural gas will help cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
The university has two steam plants, one on West Campus and the other on East Campus. The steam they produce heats buildings and water, runs dehumidification systems, and sterilizes equipment at the hospital.
UNC was supposed to do likewise by 2020, but officials there confirmed earlier this year that they're going to have trouble meeting that goal because their first plant for a fuel switch at their campus co-gen plant wasn't "technically or financially sound."
At Duke, student groups are questioning the university's math regarding the benefits of the switch and want officials like Thompson to show their work.
Wang said they plan on holding two campus forums in the coming weeks, one in Gross Hall at
But Thompson said the university's already using solar power and made energy-efficiency moves, and is looking to do more along those lines because the administration "has committed to becom[ing] a carbon-neutral campus by 2024."
He added that the proposed co-gen plant is "not an either/or proposition" and fits into the university's overall strategy for meeting carbon-reduction goal.
Technologically, there's little that's cutting-edge about the proposed plant.
Engineers have been attaching generators to jets as long as they've been hanging jets on airplanes, and gas turbines using other fuels are a common source of power and propulsion for ships. Turbine manufacturers like
At Duke, the turbine's exhaust would pass through a heat exchanger, there flashing water into steam.
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