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Central Plant Opens

The accomplishments of 120 workers who put in 106,000 hours of work as well as the dozens of individuals who visualized and planned Berea College’s new state-of-the-art central heating and cooling plant were celebrated during the dedication and grand opening ceremony of the new plant on Sept. 27.

The new central plant is dedicated on Sept. 27

At the end of the ceremony, dozens of people watched as a spherical stone finial was lifted by a machine to the top corner of the plant’s main entrance. Linking the old with the new, the ornamental masonry and its twin were removed from the school’s original central building, which is being demolished after serving the institution for more than 70 years.

Speaking at the dedication was David Welch, BC trustee and chairman of the buildings and grounds committee. He pointed out that ground was broken for the college’s first central plant, a steam plant, in 1904 and it was expanded when he was a student in the 1950s. While they served the school “splendidly … by 21st century standards, the old plant left much to be desired. Today we are celebrating a new chapter in the college’s story of being and becoming.”

Lyons Co., a Glagow, Ky., construction and engineering firm, was in charge of the project and President Vince Foushee followed Welch’s comments with details about the central plant, which provides chilled water to cool 19 building and hot water for 24 campus structures. Foushee stated that the new plant should serve the college for many decades to come as it is equipped to use both bio-diesel and solar energy.

Shinn added that, “In many ways, the new and more efficient heat plant is the culmination of a decade of planning at Berea College where sustainability, economics, and energy concerns coalesced in a project of this magnitude. Not only will we save energy and money at close to a 30 percent level, but we will significantly reduce Berea's ecological footprint. I am very excited by the completion of this project."

After the dedication ceremony, tours of the facility were led by Randy Adams, newly appointed central plant/energy manager and former project manager for capital construction. He states that the new plant was designed to assist the college’s goal of reducing energy consumption by 45 percent by 2015. The former facility operated with two coal fire boilers and one gas fire boiler.

The new plant uses boilers that run on natural gas with diesel fuel as a backup source. In case the natural gas supply is cut off or purchase costs soar, the school can rely on 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel buried in a tank at the new plant. This diesel reserve could be used for more than a week before being depleted.

While the former plant had to be manned 24 hours a day, the new facility requires only one eight-hour work period per day. Adams says the new system is fully automated with a computer-controlled system that can operate all control valves, pumps and equipment.

Employees have designated “on call” times and if there’s a problem, the system will page or e-mail the on call person. Depending on the problem, the worker can go to the plant or fix the problem from home. “All control systems are on the Internet, so you can access them all over the United States. I can sit at my house and operate it," says Adams. "Pretty much the plant runs itself.”

Construction of the central plant was planned by the college’s Energy Task Force, which set the following goals for the facility: increasing efficiency, reducing pollution, increasing fuel options, modernizing facilities, improving campus appearance, building “green” and providing educational and teaching facilities.

According to the Lyons Co., statistics show that distribution losses were reduced from 25 to 3 percent. Also, cooling energy requirements have been reduced 20 percent and the efficiency of heating energy is about 83 percent. In addition, pollution has been greatly reduced. Nearly 100 percent of sulphur oxides were cut, as were 95 percent of nitrogen oxides and 99 percent of particulates (soot, etc.). Carbon monoxide outputs have receded by 71 percent.

While the central plant boasts many features, it looks nothing like its predecessor, which was easily identifiable by a huge smokestack breaking the campus skyline. The new plant “looks like an academic building. You can’t tell it’s a generation plant,” explains Adams. The facility has office, training/class rooms and meeting space. The facility also houses a full multimedia system to be used for education and presentation purposes.

The objective of building “green” was met by strict adherence to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. LEED guidelines involve nearly every aspect of the building, including lighting, HVC (heating, ventilating and cooling), the use of recyclable or sustainable materials, special paint, and plumbing and roofing materials. “You’re saving the environment and energy for the facility and showing that you have the initiative to make it better for future generations,” says Adams.

Once the old plant and smokestack have been removed (the plant demolition is underway and the smokestack will be dismantled within the coming weeks) the ground will be prepared for green space, which is currently still in the planning stages.

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