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Earth Day 2012: UC Converts Coal Boiler to Run on Waste Wood Chips


As part of ongoing conservation and alternative-energy efforts, UC will convert a coal-burning boiler to one that will primarily operate on recycled/waste wood chips.

Date: 4/18/2012 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824

UC ingot   For three years now, the University of Cincinnati has been named to The Princeton Review’s list of the nation’s best “green” schools – leading in environmental practices and in preparing the next generation of green professionals.
  • This is the third straight year that UC made The Princeton Review’s prestigious list of green schools. See more on those rankings.
UC has earned this green designation thanks, in part, to its year-round, long-term conservation and alternative-energy efforts, with energy efficiency as a top environmental and economic priority for the university.

To that end, the university has worked for over two years with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ohio Department of Development on plans to convert an on-campus, coal-burning boiler into an alternative-energy unit – specifically one that, by 2014, will primarily burn waste wood chips. The waste wood chips will be a cleaner and more economical option than is coal.

According to Joe Harrell, UC director of utilities, this boiler will primarily be used to offset peak steam needs, put into service and operated during cold-weather periods. (This will be the same use for the boiler as has been the case in the past year, when fueled only by coal.)

“As a coal-burning boiler, this boiler has not been used in 2012 and minimally in 2011. Its last sustained  baseload use was in 2007-2010. But even with our back-up systems like this, we want to convert them to more sustainable and economic fuels whenever we can,” Harrell explained.

That’s why UC worked to gain the EPA permit necessary to convert the boiler.

Because of the boiler technology involved and the way chips burn, the boiler will always require a “dose” of coal in order to operate correctly. That’s because wood chips are not as dense as coal and burn too hot and create too much heat for parts of the system to handle. So, when operated in the future during cold-weather periods to heat buildings, this boiler will operate on a mixture of waste wood chips and coal. In 2014, the boiler, when needed, will operate on a mixture of 80 percent waste wood chips and 20 percent coal.

See other UC news related to Earth Day, including
  • Find out about more UC Earth Week events, including presentations, workshops and the planting of about 100 trees starting at 10 a.m., Sunday, April 22, on UC’s Victory Parkway campus, 2220 Victory Parkway, Walnut Hills.
  • Green Promise: UC Team Seeking to Turn Fryer Fat to Fuel Competes in National EPA Event