Like Fenway Park, UMass Lowell’s Power Plant celebrates its 100th birthday this year. The University is celebrating by making its power source greener and more efficient.
Over the coming months, the nondescript North Campus power plant, tucked between VFW Highway and Costello Athletic Center, is getting a makeover that will make it more fiscally efficient and a boon to the University’s ongoing efforts to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Two of the Power Plant’s three mammoth boilers – which use steam to heat all of the buildings on North Campus save for the new, self-efficient Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center – will be replaced with efficient boilers that burn clean natural gas. Though the Power Plant was constructed in 1912, its two main boilers were replaced in 1950 and 1953.
The $900,000 cost of the two steam boilers and other parts for the job were purchased with money from the Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM), the state agency responsible for major public building construction.
The energy efficiency project will reduce fuel use by 20 billion BTUs (equal to nearly 143,000 gallons of fuel oil) each year, save $763,000 annually by burning natural gas instead of dirty, pudding-thick No. 6 oil, and reduce enough greenhouse gases to equate to taking 845 cars off the road.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Director of Operations and Services Donald Lampron of the Department of Facilities Management and Planning. “We’re able to be more green and clean and save money.”
The new equipment will have state-of-the-art electronic monitoring so officials can monitor exact energy consumption, says Hector Valdes, project manager for the Department of Facilities Management and Planning.
Replacement of the boilers, which each stand two stories tall, has been a long time coming, says Lampron.
“When I was first hired in June 1974,” he says, “my first job was firing the boilers in the steam plant. And they said back then they were getting new ones.”
Also part of the project is the removal of a 100-foot-tall brick smokestack that rises from the building. The two new boilers will each have metal exhaust stacks and will be installed first. The stack will be dismantled and replaced with a third metal stack on the plant’s third boiler.
Work on the project will be done over the summer, according to Valdes, and should be completed by the fall.