By Carole Fuller
This past August, a 250-ton crane arrived on the Smith
campus—the first sign of the new $7.4 million cogeneration system the college
expects to have in place by mid-summer 2007. Also known as Combined Heat and Power
(CHP), cogeneration is an efficient, clean, reliable approach to generating power
and thermal energy from a single fuel source.
A 250-ton crane was brought to campus in August for
some of the heavy lifting necessary during construction of the $7.4 million
cogeneration system, which Smith expects to have in place by next summer.
With the full cogeneration power plant in place, the
college will generate about two-thirds of its total electrical power. It will also
cut its energy costs by approximately $650,000 and reduce the load it places on the
By installing a cogeneration system to meet the heating
and electrical demands of the campus, Smith will also immediately cut its greenhouse
gas emissions in half and lose only 10 percent to waste in generation.
Smith will then have to buy only a fraction of its
power from outside sources and will increase its energy use efficiency from 45 percent
for conventional generation systems (burning fossil fuel in boilers and buying electricity
from the grid) to as much as 85 percent. This increased efficiency and reduced dependence
on conventional systems will help prolong the availability of fossil fuels and reduce
dependence on dirty-emission coal, imported oil and nuclear energy. Eventually, the
steam generated can be used to chill water for air-conditioning, reducing the cost
of the higher power demand in the summer.
Smith began moving to this system with a central plant
cogeneration feasibility study completed by the engineering firm vanZelm Heywood
and Shadford. In 2006 students with Smith’s Picker Engineering Program collaborated
with vanZelm on the cogeneration project, studying renewable fuel options for the
Anyone who has paid a utility bill lately
knows the impact of rising fuel and delivery prices on household costs. Imagine paying
for 24-hour usage in every room, office and common space serving 2,600 students and
hundreds of employees!
As those on campus turn on the lights and settle in
front of their computers, few realize that Smith College uses $6 million worth of
energy every year to heat, cool, light and power the college. That’s enough
to completely power 2,500 homes for one year—and already includes significant
conservation measures taken over the past several years. (For sustainability measures
taken in the past few years, go to www.smith.edu/physplant/greenteam.) Older boilers
use a heavy heating oil that poses emission problems. Likewise, the energy the college
purchases from power companies is inefficient: the generation process often wastes
nearly 70 percent of input as heat to cooling towers and delivers about 30 percent
to the customer. Meanwhile, energy costs are rising about every six months. After
Smith’s three-year contract ended on July 1, the rate went up 58 percent and
an additional 14 percent increase is expected January 1.
The project requires large-scale asbestos
abatement, demolition and preparation before delivery of the necessary construction
equipment, a boiler and a 3.5-megawatt generating turbine similar to that of a jet
When the 250-ton crane arrived on campus, and a 16-foot
by 32.5-foot opening was cut in the old boiler plant’s roof, the heavy lifting
began. First, the huge crane was scheduled to remove approximately 200 tons of obsolete
equipment either on top of or inside the plant—including coal pulverizing equipment
and storage hoppers, three 1947 boilers and other miscellaneous apparatus. In mid-December
the crane will lift in the new 35-ton package boiler followed by the 39-ton $2 million
turbine. If all goes according to plan, the new system will be making steam in test
runs by May 15, 2007.