Power Plant and Chilling Stations
The 140-megawatt Hal C. Weaver Power Plant (.mov*) meets the university’s needs 24 hours a day, every day of the year with the following services:
- Electricity—we generate electrical power at 12,000 volts and 4,160 volts for distribution throughout the campus.
- Steam—we generate steam at 425 psi and 710 F for use in the plant, as well as at 160 psi for distribution throughout the campus to provide building heat, heat for hot water, and auxiliary services.
- Compressed Air—we provide air for use in campus buildings and laboratories.
- Demineralized Water—we provide about 8 million gallons of demineralized water to the campus for laboratory use.
- Chilled Water—we distribute about 140,000,000 ton-hours of chilled water through more than 6 miles of chilled water lines to provide air conditioning to the campus. Our peak flow rates are continually rising as campus space is added. In the summer of 2008, our peak load was about 33,000 tons and 60,000 gallons per minute of 39ºF water flowing to meet campus cooling needs. This is equivalent to the air-conditioning needs of 6,600 average houses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you offer internship opportunities to students?
We hire several students from the College of Engineering each year to work part-time in the plant. In addition, we typically sponsor one or two senior engineering design projects each year. We also currently have a partnership and are collaborating on many projects with Austin Community College, which has an advanced certification training program for its students. Visit the university’s Employment Resources for Students and Alumni for internship and job opportunities.
How many buildings does the power plant serve?
We serve more than 160 buildings and about 17,000,000 square feet of space.
What is the steam rising seen during cold days?
The "steam" is actually water that has evaporated from the cooling towers located at the power plant and the chilling stations. It is warm water evaporating from the tower creating a fog-like appearance.
How many chilling stations does the power plant have?
We currently have four chilling stations operating. Chilling Station 6 was completed in the spring of 2009. This facility replaced the older and outdated Chilling Station 2. The demolition of Chilling Station 2 allowed room for the recently completed Gates Dell Complex.
How much electricity is produced annually?
We produce 345,000,000 kilowatt hours, 70% of which is consumed by the campus while the other 30% is used to make chilled water for air conditioning on campus.
What conservation measures has the power plant enacted?
Our power plant and chilling stations continually strive to reduce the energy we consume, thus increasing our overall energy efficiency. Some of the more significant projects completed within the past few years include the following:
- Installation of variable frequency drives (VFDs) on the pumps and fans for Cooling Tower 1. In addition to providing much smoother operation and control, integrating the VFDs into the system saves us approximately $500,000 annually.
- Installation of a “quench valve” system that allows us to operate with fewer steam turbines online without compromising the reliability of the plant. This project provides more than $1 million in natural gas savings annually.
- Modifications and upgrades to our natural-gas-fired steam boilers. The original intent of this project was to reduce Nitrous Oxide (NOx) emissions by more than 80%. In addition to realizing these significant emissions reductions, the modifications also improved boiler efficiency by 5-10% and reduced horsepower consumption by more than 75%.
- We completed the conversion of three of our four 3,000-ton electric chillers from refrigerant R-12 to the more environmentally friendly refrigerant R-134a. In the process, the efficiency of these chillers will improve by about 7.5%. We will complete the fourth chiller when funds become available.
- As mentioned, we are always investigating ways to improve efficiency, reduce emissions and increase our reliability. As part of this continuous improvement process, we welcome suggestions from the campus community. Read more about our commitment to sustainability.