ISU Gets New Boilers for Cleaner Power

Feb 24, 2015

Three new natural gas-powered boilers are moving Iowa State University closer to compliance with new federal environmental regulations.

The boilers arrived on the Ames campus today. 

Director of Utility Services Jeff Witt says when they replace three old, coal-fueled boilers, ISU will be in compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules for cleaner power generation. The deadline to meet those requirements is next January.

Witt says two coal-powered boilers will remain in use.

“The benefit to the university is that we can operate certain boilers depending on fuel price,” Witt says. “So if natural gas is cheap, we can burn more natural gas, less coal. If natural gas gets expensive again, we could burn more coal and less natural gas and minimize cost to the campus.”

He says the coal boilers also can burn biomass, which would increase renewable fuel use. That’s something he says the University of Iowa is currently doing with some of its boilers. It will still be months before the new boilers are fully functional.

“We are building an addition to the plant that will house the three new boilers,” Witt says. “The addition is framed and then the boilers will go in and they’ll finish building the building around the boilers.”

The boilers were manufactured in Lincoln, Nebraska and sent by train to Boone. Then they were trucked from the rail yard in Boone to the Ames campus. Witt says Ames didn’t have a large enough rail yard to handle getting the boilers off the tracks.

Witt says if everything goes as planned, he expects the new boilers to be on-line by late fall. The new boilers cost $3 million each. The university expects to spend $42 million total on the project. 

With the white framing of the building addition visible in the background, workers prepare to move a new boiler into place at the Iowa State University power plant.
Credit Amy Mayer/IPR