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$250k grant to support change from coal to gas

Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 23:11

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation awarded Tech the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant Award Oct. 24 in the amount of $250,000 to go toward transitioning from coal to natural gas in energy production.

“It’s our anticipation this will be our last winter on coal,” Jack Butler, associate vice president for facilities and business services, said.

The campus ran on natural gas during the summer months but will still depend on coal this winter.

“We don’t have the ability to carry a winter load on gas and have a backup in case that boiler went down,” Butler said. “So we could be burning gas now, even though it’s colder, but if that boiler went down we wouldn’t have a backup, so the university would be without heat until we came up on coal.”

According to Tech’s grant proposal, the TTU Coal Fired Steam Plant currently runs on four boilers. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the plant consumed 6,837 tons of coal, costing the university $1,111,248.

The university plans to eliminate coal usage by switching the large boiler, number five, that burns Stoker Coal to natural gas. Butler said the full transition is set to take place in the spring or summer of 2013.

The $650,000 transition is projected to save Tech $368,330 annually and have a payback period of 1.76 years.

Though Tech has acted in compliance with the Title V permit—which is required of companies having operations involving major air contaminants—through maintenance, air filtering and limiting air emissions, the plant reported a total of 220 tons of air pollutant emissions during the 2011-2012 fiscal year. With the use of natural gas, the university anticipates a 95.3 percent annual reduction to 10.3 tons.

Currently, Tech’s plant produces approximately 480 tons of coal ash per year. The ash is transported by truck to an approved landfill in Indiana. The total emissions from the ash transportation were not included in the proposal document.

The Clean Tennessee Energy Grant Program provides financial assistance to state and local government agencies and private businesses and organizations to purchase, install and construct energy products that reduce emissions and pollutants.

Andy Loftis, power plant manager, said Tech was one of four government agencies chosen from 333 applications to receive funding from TDEC.

The award process was based on three criteria: cleaner alternative energy, including biomass, geothermal, solar and wind energy; energy conservation, including lighting, HVAC improvements, improved fuel efficiency, insulation and idling minimization; and air quality improvement, including sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, hazardous air pollutants and greenhouse gases. Tech met all criteria.

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