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U Campus Becomes More Environmentally Friendly

March 9, 2005 — Recent moves to reduce pollutants and save energy are making The University of Utah more environmentally friendly. The most dramatic and immediate improvement is the cessation of using coal as a way to provide emergency electricity to its many buildings and operations.

Since October, 1993, coal has been used exclusively as the backup fuel for the U, which had to be relied on very rarely. However, each year the University still had to burn-off the stored coal, creating environmental challenges. Within the past few weeks, the U executed a contract with Questar Gas to provide uninterruptible transportation of natural gas to its Main Campus High Temperature Water (HTW) Plant making the storage and use of coal obsolete.

The HTW plant was built approximately 45 years ago. It was originally designed to burn either coal or natural gas, mainly to provide heat to the “new hospital” up on the hill, which is now the School of Medicine. It was (and still is) a requirement that hospitals have a backup system for their heat source.

In 2001, the University constructed a separate HTW Plant on East Campus, enabling the separation of the Main Campus Plant from the Health Sciences area. Backup fuel for the Main Plant then became optional. “After careful discussions and evaluations involving Questar and University administrators, the decision was made to eliminate coal as a backup option. Not only does this help the environment, it also eliminates the need to repair and or replace aging coal handling equipment for the boilers. It was, simply, the right thing to do,” said Pieter J. van der Have, assistant vice president for plant operations.

The University is also close to an agreement that will help reduce the amount of fossil fuel utility companies use to generate electricity for the campus. The U is in the final stages of negotiating for wind generated electricity, in addition to the hydro-power already being purchased. Between these two sources, approximately 35 million kilowatts of electricity will be acquired from non-fossil fuel generation.