Ultra-Clean Power Plant Reflects California State University’s Commitment to Green Programs
1 Megawatt Fuel Cell Power Plant at its Northridge Campus is Latest Example of CSU’s Push Toward Greater Energy Independence
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July 20, 2006 – The California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees recently approved the construction of a 1 megawatt fuel cell power plant for its Northridge campus to generate base load electricity for its facilities and surplus heat for hot water. The new power plant demonstrates CSU’s commitment to “green” programs, sustainability, energy efficiency and environmental education throughout its 23 campuses.
When complete in late 2006, the new facility will be the largest at any university in the world, incorporate the most efficient power plant technology currently available, and will provide additional environmental friendly power to the campus. Besides generating base load electricity, California State University, Northridge (CSUN) uniquely plans on routing exhaust from the power plant’s heat exchanger into an adjacent greenhouse and arboretum to enhance photosynthesis.
“The 1 megawatt fuel cell power plant will significantly reduce Cal State Northridge’s reliance on an outside source of electricity, lesson the strain on California’s energy grid, and reduce the release of greenhouse gas admissions into the atmosphere,” said Vi San Juan, assistant vice chancellor, Capital Planning, Design & Construction at CSU. “CSUN is a leader in implementing energy projects among institutions of higher learning, and a great example of what a university can do to help its home state address environmental concerns.”
The nearly $8.7 million fuel cell power plant will also provide a unique opportunity for students in CSUN’s College of Science and Mathematics to study the carbon dioxide enrichment potential provided by fuel cell power plants. The College of Engineering and Computer Science students will play a role in the plant's installation, providing an opportunity to study the latest technology in energy efficiency.
CSUN was also hailed five years ago by the Clean Air Coalition for its use of alternative energy. In 2001, the campus installed six microturbines as a way to save energy. The university also has installed nearly 6,000 solar panels totaling nearly 700,000 watts of power.
Energy Independence: A University-Wide Commitment
CSU was honored last month with the “Flex Your Power Award” during the State of California’s 2006 Energy Conservation Summit in Los Angeles. The university’s Office of the Chancellor, and its San Bernardino campus, were recognized in the “Energy Efficiency” and “Education & Leadership” categories for their efforts in helping the state meet its energy efficiency and environmental conservation needs.
Last year the CSU Board of Trustees approved a revised policy on energy conservation that calls for maintaining current practices and further reducing consumption by another 15 percent (from the 1999/2000 school year through 2005 the university’s 23 campuses reduced energy consumption by 10 percent). The policy also calls for reduced requirements from the electricity grid by increasing self-generation to 50 MW, and increasing the purchase of renewable energy to 20 percent.
Among the goals of the proposed policy, the CSU seeks not only new conservation and more efficient buying methods, but also greater energy independence and use of renewable energy, largely through on-campus generation of energy. Cogeneration plants, solar power, and flexibility to reduce demand during transmission shortages are key technologies supporting this goal.
“Sustainability and renewable energy are priorities in the CSU, and an issue the Board of Trustees is passionate about. This policy would function as an excellent template for other universities in creating their own energy standards,” said CSU Student Trustee Andrew LaFlamme, who is currently pursuing his graduate degree in Business Administration at California State University, Stanislaus. “We must all become more conscious of our energy and resource management, and we must increase our renewable energy investments to protect our universities from future energy challenges.”
California State University, East Bay has been repeatedly honored for its sustainable practices, most notably for its new solar power array, which tops four buildings and is the largest such array at any college. The project generates roughly 1.45 million kilowatt hours a year, and earned a record $3.4 million rebate from Pacific Gas & Electric.
California State University, Sonoma has built an innovative sustainable building in Salazar Hall. The building’s design eliminated the mechanical cooling system and captured rebates that enabled the installation of a 108 KW photovoltaic system. The periodical, Heating Piping and Air Conditioning, published a study of the system in its July 2005 issue.
CSU campuses in Chico and Dominguez Hills both have been approved by the Board of Trustees to proceed with solar photovoltaic projects that will generate nearly 900 kilowatts of power for the two campuses during daylight hours. Both projects have been funded by Sun Edison, a company the campuses will enter into a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement with. Both colleges will benefit by paying a lower overall electric rate, and a projected drop in cost of nearly $3.6 million.
California State University, San Bernardino has been approved to proceed with an energy services infrastructure improvements project that includes additions, upgrades and expansions of nearly a dozen energy systems. The project will be funded using equipment-lease financing and energy incentives of $1.3 million.
“All the campuses are committed to helping advance our energy goals,” said San Juan. “Some, like Northridge and East Bay, set the bar with their energy and environmental programs. Others are beginning to further embrace the environmental and monetary advantages of using technology and alternative sources of energy, and integrating environmental sustainability into their educational curriculums.”
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Last Updated: July 20, 2006