Ohio University Launches Energy Infrastructure Projects Initiative

ATHENS, Ohio — Construction on Ohio University’s (OU) campus in Athens is underway as the university works to meet green energy standards approved in June 2014. The university’s Energy Infrastructure Projects Initiative maps out how OU will meet future Environmental Protection Agency regulations, effective Feb. 1, 2016.

The Energy Infrastructure Projects Initiative includes phasing in energy upgrades over the next two to three years. The roughly $79 million that will be spent to support the initiative will be broken down into four areas: utility master plan, chilled water, electric and steam.

The first part of the plan includes working on OU’s energy conservation efforts. For instance, the university enacted a two-week steam outage in May, allowing for maintenance to be performed on the campus’ steam infrastructure, reported The Post. The project, which fixed a number of leaks, will help the university reduce emissions. Other projects this summer included improving the reliability of OU’s electric distribution and continuing to increase efficiency in the school’s cooling system.

In the coming months, OU will work to determine how much of its electricity supply can come from renewable energies, as part of the university’s sustainability goals includes a commitment to
to having 20 percent of the energy used on campus be renewable by 2020, according to The Post.

Another major part of the initiative includes the construction of a medium-pressure natural gas pipeline. The university is partnering with Columbia Gas of Ohio to create the pipeline that would replace the use of coal on campus. The $5.5 million pipeline project would help lower the university’s carbon footprint by 34 percent; however, members of Ohio University Climate Action Now are protesting the project due to concerns about the school’s sustainable energy policies and the project’s safety, reported The Post.

Remaining phases of the Energy Infrastructure Projects Initiative include upgrading chilled water service by building a new Chilled Water Plant, upgrading the electric distribution (a project that is already underway with the installation of a new duct bank and switches) and improving the steam production by using additional dual fuel boilers as the campus makes the transition into using natural gas, reported the Compass.

The recommended steam production replacement to the old Lausche Combined Heat and Power Plant will allow it to meet campus needs as well as the university’s commitment to stop burning coal by December. The proposed plan includes renting two dual fuel boilers for two years, while two existing coal-fired boilers will be stored for possible future alternative energy use. Two to three new dual fuel boilers will eventually join the two existing boilers that are already burning natural gas. The proposed plan also allows for increased flexibility as well as greater options for future alternative energy uses, reported the Compass.

The university also discussed the possibility of a joint venture with the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council on a 3-megawatt, 10-acre solar farm in Albany County as an energy source that would help the school meet its 2020 goal, reported The Post.