University cancels CHP plant, focuses on biogas

North Carolina’s Duke University has ‘delayed indefinitely’ plans to build a combined heat and power (CHP) plant on campus. According to its news service, Duke Today, the university will instead switch attention to expanding the use of biogas ‘and other environmentally friendly fuels’ for its growing energy needs.

“Duke has an aggressive goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2024 while ensuring that the energy demands of a growing, vibrant campus can be met,” executive vice president Tallman Trask III told Duke Today.

“While CHP technology creates much greater efficiencies for both the consumer and the producer, we also recognise that advances in technology provide a constantly changing range of options and deserve further study.”

Duke University and Duke Energy announced preliminary plans to build a CHP plant on the University’s West Campus in 2016. It was hoped the new facility would provide a more efficient and reliable source of electricity and steam to a range of the university’s buildings.

According to Duke Today, the proposal was put on hold ‘when concerns were raised about the environmental and economic impact of the CHP plant’. This led to the university carrying out further research and engagement both with those in the university, and the local community.


Switch to biogas

Duke University is looking to reduce its use of conventional natural gas, which is currently the primary fuel source for the campus’ steam plants.

In 2010, Duke University partnered in a swine-waste to biogas project at Loyd Ray Farms in North Carolina. A waste management system was installed at the farm, which uses anaerobic digestion to produce and capture biogas. This biogas powers a 65 kilowatt microturbine.

The liquid waste from the digester flows to an open-air basin where the wastewater is aerated to reduce the concentrations of ammonia and other remaining pollutants so that it can be reused to flush the barns. This flushing maintains healthy populations of good microbial communities.

Electricity generated on site is either used at the farm, or fed back into the grid.

Duke Today reports that the university is now in discussion with potential suppliers to expand production and delivery at the Loyd Ray Farms to the campus.

“We are committed to support and foster the development of a renewable biogas market in North Carolina that reduces reliance on fossil fuels and provides opportunities for positive community, environmental, economic and policy outcomes in the state,” Trask told Duke Today.

“At the same time, we will continue to pursue energy efficiency, solar energy and other strategies to meet our climate goals.”

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