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Power plants on campus

We have 3 power plants on campus and a 19km+ network of tubes underground. Together these provide efficiently-generated electricity and hot water to 60% of our buildings.

It’s been so successful that the Government is using it as a case study in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But what is it, and how does it work?


Generating power: CHP

Our three plants are all Combined Heating and Power (CHP) plants. That means that they produce electricity and capture the heat that a normal power plant would waste during the process, using it to generate hot water.

The three CHP plants are connected to a 19km long network of insulated pipes that carry hot water to our buildings – our “District Heating System”. To get a sense of scale, 19km is about the distance from Central Campus to Wellesbourne.

Since 2001 we’ve invested millions in our CHP plants and District Heating System so that they now provide for the needs of over 150 buildings on campus. We’ve also installed thermal storage units which keep hold of any excess hot water generated at off-peak times until its needed later in the day, providing us with a massive efficiency boost.

Today, our energy infrastructure helps save in excess of 3,644 tonnes of CO2 each year, saving up to £650,000 annually and reducing primary energy consumption by 13%.


How a CHP plant works


How our system has developed over time

2001
400kW CHP installed on Gibbet Hill Campus.
2002
14 existing heating systems converted from high pressure to low pressure hot water.
2003
Two 1.35MW units installed to provide heating, electricity and air conditioning.
2004
 
2005
1.35MW CHP unit installed to supply heat and electricity to Central Campus.
2006
 
2007
 
2008
Installation of two hot water buffer-vessels to save excess hot water for peak times.
2009
Efficiency-enhancing software installed to control CHP running hours and stroage.
2010
 
2011
 
2012
 
2013
1960s Boilerhouse redeveloped to improve heat recovery.
2014
Cryfield Energy Centre completed boosting campus CHP capacity.
2015
 
2016
 
2017
 
2018
Lowest-recorded levels of CO2 emitted on campus - CHP is working.

Benefits beyond energy efficiency

Though the reduction in carbon emissions and financial savings alone would justify our system, it does come with other benefits:

  • It’s an educational tool – our staff and students use it as part of their research.
  • Because the energy it generates is more efficient than the grid, our fleet of electric vehicles are more efficient than the standard.
  • It keeps working even if the rest of the local area is experiencing problems.
  • The money we save by using it can be re-invested into the University’s teaching, research and facilities.
  • It has the potential to get much more efficient as fuel sources like biogass develop.