University of Florida Central Utilities CHP project moving forward without Local Utility

Jan. 3, 2022
UF Facilities Services says the proposed gas-fired plant would save more than $13 million a year in combined heat and power costs and reduce carbon emissions by 80,000 metric tons a year

By Rod Walton, EnergyTech Senior Editor

The University of Florida is banking on a new gas-fired central utility power plant for its Gainesville campus which would save more than $13 million a year in combined heat and power costs and reduce carbon emissions by 80,000 metric tons a year.

But the campus utility leadership’s real heavy lift may be its own student body and other environmental advocates protesting the project. And at least one or two local utilities apparently are out of the running to build it.

A news report by the Gainesville Sun indicated that Gainesville Regional Utilities and Duke Energy did not make the shortlist of candidates to build the planned CHP & district heating power system.

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The University of Florida Facilities Services unit utilizes cogeneration power to supply heat and power to more than 130 campus buildings. The new on-site facility would use natural gas to power generation and excess heat for campus needs.

The university plans to end its long-term contact with the current steam provider. Local utility Gainesville Regional Utilities hoped to join Duke in developing a new power system for electricity and heat, but was informed by UF officials month that its submission was not a finalist.

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“The combined heat and power approach will provide several benefits to the university. By rightsizing cogeneration capacity, peak demand will be able to be met while allowing for an aggressive payback timeline on the initial project investment,” UF’s Facilities Services website page on the project reads. “In addition to the benefits regarding steam and chilled water production, electricity produced as a byproduct of the plant’s operations will allow UF to offset electric demand providing cost savings and the ability to provide backup utilities for prime research needs.”

Dallas-based Jacobs Engineering is the university’s technical consultant on the project.

The on-campus CHP plant, once operational, would deliver a 25-percent cut in annual greenhouse gas emissions (compared to the current state) and provide 50 years of energy resiliency and security for the university, according to the project web page.

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(Rod Walton, senior editor for EnergyTech, is a 14-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He can reached at [email protected]).