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UW-Whitewater to get new boiler; replaces one that exploded in April

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Kayla Bunge
October 3, 2008
— UW-Whitewater students might someday be kept warm by steam generated from burning beef fat.

The school is preparing to install a backup boiler to replace the one that exploded April 16 and left the campus without heat and hot water for a week.


The new 150 million-Btu per hour boiler will be fired primarily by natural gas, but it has the capacity to burn other fuels, including fuel oil, yellow grease, biodiesel or beef tallow, said Greg Swanson, director of facilities planning and management at UW-Whitewater.


“It does give us the potential should we ever move into the biodiesel market or should those fuels become more readily available,” Swanson said.


The boiler is scheduled to arrive on campus next week, but workers can’t begin installing the 66-ton boiler until the state’s permit application is approved.


Installing the new backup boiler is only one piece of the construction at the power plant, 734 W. Lauderdale Drive.


Swanson said the April explosion blew out the windows of the power plant and shook loose some asbestos that insulated the boiler, among other damages.


“In order for us to have that power plant back online, we had to clean that entire building top to bottom and ensure the structural integrity of the building and the mechanical integrity of all the equipment,” he said.


Swanson said structural support for the new boiler has been installed, and workers now are installing parts that will attach to the new boiler.


“Our immediate plan is to get this thing up and running,” he said.


Jay Ehrfurth, state chief power plant engineer with the Department of Administration, said he expects the new backup boiler to be online in mid- to late November.


The state Department of Administration has submitted to the state Department of Natural Resources an application for an air pollution permit to install and operate a new boiler and an emergency generator at the UW-Whitewater power plant.


The DNR has made a preliminary determination that the application meets state and federal air pollution control requirements and that the permit should be approved.


Shiw Singh, an air management engineer with the DNR, said he expects to issue the permit next week. He hasn’t received any comments from the public regarding the permit application, he said.


“Everything looks good so far,” Singh said.


Swanson said there was discussion about repairing the damaged boiler, but engineers determined replacing the boiler would be safer, more energy-efficient and less costly.


A number of components of the old boiler not damaged by the explosion can be used on the new boiler.


Swanson said the state bought the replacement boiler used. It was built in 2005 and only used for six months.


The backup boiler gives the university the ability to supply steam service to the campus if its supplier, Cogentrix Energy, has an interruption in operation, Swanson said.


The UW-Whitewater power plant gets steam service from the Cogentrix cogeneration plant in Whitewater. As Cogentrix generates electricity, it also generates steam, which the university purchases at a discounted rate, Swanson said. The university has had a contract with Cogentrix for about 10 years, he said.


TO LEARN MORE
A copy of the permit application for a new UW-Whitewater boiler, the Department of Natural Resources’ analysis and a draft permit are available at the Irvin L. Young Memorial Library, 431 W. Center St., Whitewater, or by contacting Shiw Singh at (608) 275-7773 or shiw.singh@wisconsin.gov. The information also is available online at http://dnr.wi.gov/air/permits/permitsearch.html.

Public comments on the permit will be accepted through Monday.



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