The new Energy Center at Oregon State University (OSU) has just been certified LEED Platinum, making it the first LEED Platinum power plant in the United States. The center became fully functional in June of 2010 and replaced an almost 90 year old heat plant that was facing some serious issues. The new Energy Center is a cogeneration facility that will save the university about $650,000 a year in energy costs and drastically reduce its carbon output.
The plant has the ability to produce 6.5 megawatts of electricity — which meets half of the university’s electricity needs annually. Cogeneration technology has the ability to produce electricity and usable heat simultaneously — NYU recently opened a cogeneration power plant of their own on their campus. Cogeneration facilities trap the heat that is created during the process of generating electricity and uses that heat for other uses — heating water, heating buildings, fueling air conditioning units. Because very little energy is lost they are much more efficient than conventional power plants. The plant runs on natural gas but has the ability to run on biodiesel as well.
The new Energy Center‘s cogeneration plant is estimated to emit 38% less carbon than OSU’s old power plant. In addition to being a more efficient way of producing energy the plant’s design includes a rainwater harvesting system that cools the boilers, radiation heating, natural lighting and ventilation, and the building itself uses 52 percent less energy than what is required by the state of Oregon. “By co-locating the electricity generation and heat production we gain tremendous efficiencies,” Brandon Trelstad, OSU sustainability coordinator, said. “And by producing some of our own power we also ease the strain on the Corvallis power grid.” The Energy Center not only lowers OSU’s carbon footprint but will also be used as a learning lab for OSU students.
Lead Image by Jacobs Engineering Group Inc.