June 25-July 8, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 12
Back Issues
Boldness: Characterizes diversity, fund-raising goals
Heating plant gearing up for growth
Faculty Actions from the June Board of Visitors meeting
Back to the Books: How to be a successful adult college student
World War II Revisited
Workshops to improve supervising and other skills


Heating plant gearing up for growth
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 needs.

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 storage capacity 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 and the Medical 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.

“This [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 updated exhaust 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 trucks that haul 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, Gomez said.

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 with a 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 also mark 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 levels of sulfur, reducing emissions.

The plant renovation is designed for maximum flexibility. Operating with three separate fuels will assure that the facility will continue operations without disruption. Coal will be the primary fuel, since it is currently the least expensive. The plant costs about $7 million to operate, of which $4.8 million is fuel cost, $780,000 is electric, water and sewer, and $1.5 million is labor.

Storage 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 that the silos 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 of fuel oil.
Increased security measures are also being incorporated into the design. This includes extending a wire fence all the way around the plant, installing interior and exterior security cameras and limiting parking near the building. Robert P. Dillman, chief facilities officer, said the building 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.

“We 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.

Planning for the renovations began in 1996. Work is set to start in spring 2005, and the project should be completed by 2008, Dillman said. All renovations will be carried out with no disruption of service.

The History of U.Va.’s Heating Plants
U.Va.’s original heating plant
Special Collections Department
U.Va.’s 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.

The 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, Rouss and 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 built.

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 around 1917.


© Copyright 2004 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

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