Heating plant gearing up for
Renovations cost efficient and environmentally friendly
By Matt Kelly
The University is investing nearly $52 million in a renovation of its central
grounds heating plant to ensure that the facility is in compliance with foreseeable
environmental regulations and to increase its capacity to meet future building
The renovation plans, approved by the Board of Visitors in April and unveiled
to local residents at a June 15 meeting, will include two new replacement
boilers, upgrades on the remaining furnaces, additional coal and oil
and more pollution control equipment.
Located near the corner of University Avenue and Jefferson Park Avenue,
the plant provides heat to most of the University, including the Rotunda
Center. In coming years, it will also supply heat to many of the proposed
building projects, including the South Lawn project and the new McIntire
School of Commerce building.
[renovation] is designed to handle the next 20 years of growth,” said
Cheryl L. Gomez, director of utilities. It will also bring the heating plant
into compliance with all known and foreseeable state and federal environmental
regulations through state-of-the-art technology, she said.
Two existing bag houses, which remove particulate matter from the coal
boiler exhaust, will be modified and a third will be added, as well as
scrubbers. “The bag houses will be 99 percent efficient,” she noted.
Members of the Neighborhood Advisory Group, who heard the renovation
proposal shortly after it was approved by the board, expressed
concern about fly
ash disposal when the bag houses are cleaned. Gomez assured them that
the ash to the landfill are covered and the ash is wet down to prevent
any of it from escaping.
To increase efficiency, the plant’s boilers are being replaced or modified,
The two oldest boilers, from 1950 and 1957, are being replaced. Both
are coal-fired. One will be replaced by a coal/gas boiler, the other
gas/ number 2 fuel
oil burner. The three remaining boilers will be modified, with one
gas/number 6 oil burner being converted to a gas/number 2 fuel oil
burner, and the
other two will receive modifications to reduce pollution. The changes
a shift from use of number 6 oil, a heavy, tar-like grade of oil
that requires preheating
to use, with number 2 oil, an easier-to-handle oil that has lower
sulfur, reducing emissions.
The plant renovation is designed for maximum flexibility. Operating
with three separate fuels will assure that the facility will continue
disruption. Coal will be the primary fuel, since it is currently
the least expensive. The plant costs about $7 million to operate,
is fuel cost,
$780,000 is electric, water and sewer, and $1.5 million is labor.
will be increased for coal and oil. A fifth coal silo, contributing
another 960 tons to the current 3,840-ton capacity, and a second rail
siding for coal will give the University 15 to 20 days of coal storage.
One resident suggested at the
June 15 meeting
be made more aesthetically pleasing.
Two existing 20,000-gallon underground oil storage tanks will
be augmented with a third tank, holding up to 60,000 gallons
Increased security measures are also being incorporated into
the design. This includes extending a wire fence all the way
and exterior security cameras and limiting parking near the
building. Robert P. Dillman, chief facilities officer, said
is closed and the
staff, which mans the facility 24 hours a day, is alert to
strangers on the premises.
These steps, however, are designed to discourage crime rather
than thwart terrorism.
find it unlikely that U.Va. is a terrorist target,” Colette Sheehy,
vice president for management and budget, recently told the Board of Visitor’s
buildings and grounds committee.
for the renovations began in 1996. Work is set to start in spring 2005,
and the project should be completed
be carried out with no disruption of service.
The History of U.Va.’s Heating
Special Collections Department
original heating plant (above foreground) produced not only heat
but electricity for the
University. Replaced by another
heating plant in the 1920s, this building was torn down to make room
for New Cabell Hall.
University has had three central heating plants in its history, according
to Garth Anderson, resource center manager for Facilities Management.
The first (pictured below, foreground) was located where new Cabell
Hall is now, and it supplied heat and electricity to Old Cabell,
Cocke halls. The second plant, built around 1923, was located on
Jefferson Park Avenue and the train line, so it could take coal
deliveries by rail.
The hospital laundry was next to the power plant to take advantage
of the steam.
The current plant was built in 1950 to accommodate the post-war expansion
that saw the construction of the McCormick Road dorms, the physics
building and new Cabell Hall. An extensive system of tunnels and
pipes was installed
throughout the Grounds and the plant’s capacity increased
over the years. The fifth
boiler was installed around 1986 when the new hospital was being
Anderson said the first heating plant was tied to the engineering
program so the students could study its operation. The plant
also generated direct
current electricity for the Grounds, and the University shifted
over to the alternating current system that the city was installing