A £1 million project to install a Combined Heat and Power system at Plymouth University will be switched on this month and deliver a carbon saving of 317 tonnes a year.
The engine in the Davy Building plant room will supply low-carbon power to a number of buildings, including the new Marine Building that will be officially opened at the end of the month by the Duke of Edinburgh.
Head of procurement at the university, Simon Denham, said: "It is essentially a gas turbine engine, it brings gas in one side and almost works as a generator. It produces electricity which we use on campus, and by its nature it produces heat. This would normally be a waste product, but we take the heat as a primary heat source for a number of buildings."
The gas-fired, low-carbon CHP plant will supply power to the neighbouring Smeaton Building, the Link Building, the Main Hall and Brunel Building – as the existing boilers do – and additionally it will also supply the new Marine Building and the Babbage Building. Mr Denham said it would eventually supply the new Performing Arts Centre, which is still in the process of being built.
He said there were currently three boilers in the Davy Building, which is the main energy centre on campus. The CHP system will replace one of those and become the "leading boiler."
Mr Denham added: "We almost never fire up all three, it would have to be exception ally cold weather to do so. As soon as there is a heat demand, the CHP will be the first used as it is the most efficient."
Rather than venting its waste heat, it is instead used to heat the buildings, thus reducing energy consumption. The payback on the £1 million project is around 17 years, said Mr Denham, but forms a strategic part of the institution's carbon management plan and is one of their "super key performance indicators."
It is vital for the state-of-the-art Marine Building as it ensures that it has BREEAM Excellent status, which was a key component of its funding agreement. If the building had to produce its own heat, it could only have achieved a BREEAM Very Good rating.
The £19 million Marine Building contains the country's most sophisticated wave tank testing facilities and a ship simulator to train the next generation of mariner.
Its centrepieces are the coastal ocean and sediment transport laboratories, home to a number of wave tanks and flumes. Engineers will be able to test devices in simulated conditions, thanks to wave, current and wind-generation technology.
The second floor houses the Marine Navigation Centre, complete with a ship simulator boasting a 270-degree screen that will enable students to "pilot" a huge variety of vessels – from supertankers to yachts – in a range of international locations.
The university is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and has embedded ambitious reduction targets in its key performance indicators.
Under its carbon management plan, the university's aspiration is to be carbon neutral by 2030, and it is aiming for a 25% reduction from its 2005 baseline by 2016.
The CHP will make carbon savings over 15 years of 4,755 tonnes. That equates to 317 tonnes per annum – 10% of the 2016 target.