University in Fairbanks making headway on combined heat and power plant

Construction activity will continue through 2016 and 2017 for new combined heat and power (CHP) facilities being built at University of Alaska Fairbanks’ (UAF).

The 17-MW, $245m project involves the replacement of two existing coal-fired boilers with boilers that have the ability to burn coal or biomass, according to a UAF webpage on the project.

The circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boilers being installed can burn up to 15% biomass and generate up to 17 MW of power and enough steam to heat the campus. “The CFB is an efficient and flexible technology and can burn almost any solid fuel,” UAF noted.

Major equipment deliveries are expected in the fall of 2016 through spring 2017, according to a project status update on Feb. 23.

The main boilers at the plant were installed in 1964, and both maintenance costs and the risk of catastrophic failure are increasing, according to the UAF project update.

If the existing boilers were to fail, UAF would be forced to switch to oil-fired heat and electricity, increasing annual fuel costs from approximately $9.8m per year to in excess of $33m per year, UAF said.

The upgraded heat and power plant will emit 65% fewer particulates and still generate the same amount of heat and power as the existing Atkinson plant.

“In addition to the upgrade and new boilers, we will retain our two existing backup diesel and gas boilers and continue with campus energy conservation measures and exploration of renewable options,” according to the UAF project website.

“This plan will allow the university to meet its energy needs for the next 50 years and nearly eliminate the need to purchase higher-cost electricity from Golden Valley Electric Association,” UAF said.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at