ERIC Number: EJ842503
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-May-8
Reference Count: N/A
New Power Plants Try to Avoid Coal or Scrub It "Clean"
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n35 pA9 May 2009
After spending $133-million to build a new award-winning technological gem of a power plant, officials at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst are expecting their fuel bills to rise by $7-million a year. And yet they are very proud of the accomplishment. The reasons for the higher energy costs involve a complicated mix of technology, regulatory and environmental policy, and international energy markets. Yet in one sense, the explanation is simple: The university's old polluting power plant used coal. The new one uses more expensive natural gas and oil. "You can't beat coal" on price, said James E. Cahill, director of facilities and campus planning at UMass. "Coal is cheap. But the environmental cost of burning coal is enormous." The switch from coal means annual fuel costs at UMass will rise more than 50 percent, going from about $13-million to about $20-million. The university says it will recoup all $7-million because the new facility can generate more electricity than the old one did. The extra power will allow UMass to buy less electricity from the local utility, which charges the university much more expensive rates. That's a solution for UMass and many other power plants around the nation that are increasingly relying on natural gas. But it is not a long-term answer for the country, as natural gas still pollutes, is difficult to transport, and comes from limited reserves. For those longer-term answers, universities also hope again to lead the way. The $787-billion economic-stimulus package enacted in February by President Obama allocates $3.4-billion for research into ways of reducing the carbon emitted by fossil fuels.
Descriptors: Educational Facilities Planning, Fuels, Energy Management, Energy, Costs, Pollution, Scientific Research, Utilities
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts