University of Alaska Combined Heat and Power Plant, designed by Stanley Consultants, named a Top Plant by POWER magazine. New facility may be the last coal-fired power plant constructed in the U.S.
The new University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF) Combined Heat and Power Plant, which may be the last conventional coal-fired power plant constructed in the U.S., has been named a 2019 Top Plant by Power Magazine. The magazine’s annual competition honors facilities that distinguished themselves by implementing innovative design or engineering upgrades, producing power more reliably or economically than comparable plants or demonstrating a new generation or environmental controls technology. Completed in late 2018, the $245 million plant has a coal-fired boiler with a total capacity of 240,000 lbs/hr of steam. The project also includes a 17 MW steam turbine with a controlled extraction port for providing low-pressure steam to heat the campus. The plant was designed by Stanley Consultants and Design Alaska, and constructed by Haskell Davis, JV.
UAF began studying replacement options when its two aging boilers showed signs of failure. The most economical solution was a coal-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant with a circulating fluidized bed boiler. It will provide 100 percent of the university’s future needs yet stay well under current emissions levels. “We’re looking at it as a 50-year investment in the university,” said Mike Ruckhaus, senior project manager for the university. “That’s different from most commercial projects. For us, this investment is for a much longer time frame. It’s really the engine for our research and our educational mission.”
Building a coal fired plant was a radical choice in today’s regulatory climate, but it was the only economically feasible option. A natural gas plant would have been less expensive to construct but cost four times more to operate than a coal plant. By contrast, coal that is low in sulfur and mercury, is inexpensive and mined locally. The new plant has the lowest emission rates for PM2.5 of any coal plant in the U.S. and emits only 20 percent of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) produced by the previous
plant. It’s the first fluidized bed plant in Alaska and the single largest publicly funded construction project in the university’s history.