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CU Boulder Building New Low-Carbon Campus Utility System

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The first phase of construction on a University of Colorado Boulder campus utility project that will provide efficient heating and cooling while significantly reducing the university’s carbon emissions began in late August, with utility work and construction staging on the south side of campus.

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The project is expected to be complete in the winter of 2014 and involves three major components: renovation of the campus power house on 18th Street; construction of a separate, new heating and cooling plant; and installation of new utility distribution systems.

“Safe, reliable and efficient energy is crucial for providing uninterrupted power that supports CU-Boulder’s educational and research mission,” said Steve Thweatt, executive director of facilities management. “This project will ensure that we can effectively consolidate the heating and cooling of a number of buildings on the Boulder campus while continuing to build our leadership in sustainability.”

The $91.1-million project, which is being funded through a combination of cash reserves and long-term debt proceeds, also will replace chiller and boiler equipment critical to campus operations.

Excavation will start at the beginning of September on the new heating and cooling plant, called the East District Energy Plant. Located near the Coors Events Center, the 72,000-sq-ft facility will showcase energy-efficiency concepts. In addition, the university is pursuing LEED-Gold certification for the building.

As part of this project, workers will begin digging at several locations around campus this month, including 18th Street and Kittredge Loop Road, to install piping to deliver chilled water needed for campus air conditioning systems. The installation will allow the Kittredge residence complex to have air conditioning for the first time.

Next fall, renovation will begin on the original campus Power House, built in 1909. The Power House includes a co-generation plant and will have its equipment replaced and upgraded such that the facility will be able to meet approximately 50% of the campus’s electrical power requirements using natural gas—a method that produces fewer carbon emissions than the local utility.

“We anticipate that natural gas will be an economic energy source for the campus for the future, which can be implemented as appropriate,” said campus architect Paul Leef.

As part of the renovation, the plant’s exhaust waste heat will be recovered and used to provide both heating and additional electrical power without burning extra fuel. It is estimated that the renovated power house facility, which will be renamed the West District Energy Plant, will have the capability to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 30,000 metric tons per year.

“The two plants will be connected such that when the entire system is online, the plants will work in tandem with the upgraded distribution system to deliver a high level of efficiency and reliability, helping the campus reduce its carbon footprint,” said Moe Tabrizi, director of campus sustainability.

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