UNM’s latest piece of energy saving equipment has been delivered to the Ford Utilities Center and it required the largest crane in the State of New Mexico to put it into place. On June 27, a new gas turbine arrived in Albuquerque and a five-story crane off loaded it from the semi-trailer and placed it on a complex construction of slings and gantries, which guided it into place inside the Ford Utilities Center. This gas turbine is part of the Utilities Master Plan developed by Lobo Energy, Inc. and approved by the Board of Regents in 2000.
The installation was delayed several years because of the reduction in steam usage on campus due to energy conservation efforts. But over the past six years, new construction has increased campus buildings by 2,000,000 square feet and the decision was made to move forward with a new gas turbine. Financing for this $11 million project was arranged through a bank loan, which will be paid back from the energy savings. The installation of the gas turbine is scheduled to be completed by May 2014.
The gas turbine allows UNM to generate a significant component of our own electrical power, which we normally purchase from PNM. In generating our own electricity with this technology, a large quantity of waste heat is produced and it is recovered to also produce steam for campus heating. This ability to produce both electricity and steam increases energy efficiency to 75 percent, while industrial production of electricity alone is only 30-40 percent energy efficient because the waste heat is released to the atmosphere. The electricity produced by the gas turbine is 6.5 megawatts, which is almost half of the campus demand of 12/15 megawatts in non-peak hours. Campus peak hour demand is 24-25 megawatts.
Why doesn’t UNM only use solar panels to produce electricity? Solar panels only produce electricity when the sun is out. The new Science and Math Learning Center (SMLC) has a solar panel installation, which produces 73 kilowatts of electricity and cost $300,000. To produce the same amount of electricity as the gas turbine, it would take 90 solar panels installations similar to the one on the roof of the SMLC and $27 million. In addition, those many solar panels would only be producing electricity part of the day, while the gas turbine can be run all day and the gas turbine can also produces steam.
UNM is always working on ways to find energy efficiencies and be more sustainable. For more information on sustainability at UNM, follow the UNM Office of Sustainability on Facebook or on Twitter @LoboGreen.
Story by UNM Sustainability Manager Mary Clark, (505) 277-1142; Photos by Larry Schuster. Aerial photo courtesy of Henry Ogrodnik.