Sustainability commitments, regulations provide energy challenges

March 19, 2010

University Park, Pa. — New and pending regulations and commitments to more sustainable practices present new challenges in energy production and consumption at Penn State, University Park Physical Plant officials told the University's Board of Trustees in an informational report Friday (March 19). The report detailed energy planning for the University Park campus.

"In the next few months, we are going to have to begin design on some changes to the West Campus steam plant at University Park to comply with environmental regulations," said Al Horvath, senior vice president for finance and business/treasurer. "These changes will be significant and expensive."

This information was first outlined in a Penn State Live news release in November 2009, at

Aggressive conservation programs have reversed the upward trend of steam consumption and allowed the University to defer plant expansion, as capacity should not be exceeded for at least another 10 years, said Steve Maruszewski, deputy associate vice president of physical plant. However, pending and future regulations on emissions are expected to make coal burning much more difficult.

Penn State already has begun its own initiatives to reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, calling for a dramatic reduction in overall emissions to help make the University a leader in sustainable practices, Maruszewski added.

Anticipating new regulations, the University is exploring two options -- installation of a scrubber on coal boilers, which cleans emissions before discharge, or conversion of the plant to natural gas, said Ford Stryker, associate vice president of physical plant. Other regulations also are being considered to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Once the new regulation becomes effective, Stryker added, it will require a very aggressive schedule to achieve timely permit application and approval, design and construction.

Penn State's energy master plan, drafted in 2005 and most recently updated in 2009, was designed to ensure future capacity and reliability, develop a steam plant modernization strategy, reduce exposure to fuel price volatility and meet environmental regulations as well as the University's own commitment to sustainability.

Using that plan as a guide for the future, Penn State will seek an environmentally and economically sound strategy involving conventional technologies and renewable energy resources, said Rob Cooper, director of energy and engineering.

"The goal is to find the right mix," Cooper explained. "Our approach will be to continue monitoring new technology developments for base loaded steam production. We believe a fleet of smaller plants using a diverse portfolio of technologies and fuels that were previously dismissed as too small is the possible solution."

Cooper added that officials will continue taking advantage of an important campus resource by collaborating with Penn State researchers who bring advanced knowledge to these issues.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 23, 2010