Captured Heat Makes Rowan University Richer and Greener

Rowan University, located in Glassboro, New Jersey, is a school with a mission: to unite its staff and students in the campus-wide goal of achieving climate neutrality as soon as possible. Though it has implemented many innovative green measures in recent years, perhaps the most significant is the construction of a CHP (combined heat and power) cogeneration plant, completed in early 2008.

Cogeneration is the use of a single plant or station to generate electricity and heat simultaneously. The nature of producing electricity alone means that some thermal energy is generated as a byproduct, but where most plants simply release that heat, a cogeneration plant captures this thermal “waste” and uses it as manufactured heating.

Sean Casten, President of Recycled Energy Development, testified in 2007 before the Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure Subcommittee of the Senate that most thermal power plants the majority of which run on fossil fuels or natural gas—waste a significant percentage of available energy, up to 60 percent or more, as excess heat. By using this energy instead of discarding it, CHP is able to double the energy output of a comparatively sized non-cogenerative plant while creating less pollution, losing less energy in transference from production to consumption, and bypassing the purchasing fee from an outside utilities plant.

Completed in early 2008, Rowan’s CHP facility is a good example of both the efficiency and financial benefits of such a program. Earlier in 2008, John Imperatore, Director of Facilities and Resource Management, stated that the plant should contribute to energy savings by $1 million a year, but already it is exceeding expectations.

According to Rowan University’s newspaper, Rowan Today, the university has balanced its budget for 2009 and has allocated a $2 million increase for utilities, stating that without the cogeneration plant the total would have been $4 million. Part of the savings comes from increased efficiency, as excess heat from the plant is directed towards supplying heating, air conditioning, and hot water to the entire campus. Finally, the plant can be run on either natural gas or #2 heating oil, allowing the university to choose the most cost effective fuel for its budget.

The CHP facility originally cost $12 million to build, $1 million of which was provided by a rebate from the state board of utilities. This means that if the plant meets its efficiency goals, it will have earned back its construction fee in savings in less than a decade.

In addition to the financial savings, the plant has allowed Rowan to cut its emissions by 8,000 tons per year. The output of the new plant is 4.7 megawatts, up from 1.7 MW, which provides approximately 80 percent of Rowan’s electricity. Generating so much clean power onsite brings the university a reported 30 percent closer to its emissions neutrality goal.

And Rowan isn’t done. The university’s recent decision to buy 25 percent of the remaining electricity from wind power sources is another step forward, as is its goal to have a plan for total climate neutrality in place by 2009.

See More:

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