In a winter that has brought Arctic vortices of cold air swirling through Brunswick, the College’s central steam-heat system and the facilities staff that operate and maintain it are in for some well-deserved recognition. The original coal-fired steam boiler was installed in the old Sargent Gymnasium in 1900 (the current heating plant building), and a network of steam pipes ran through underground tunnels to buildings on the campus. The tunnels measured a little more than five feet in height and about four feet in width, enough room to allow maintenance activities, but requiring great caution to avoid getting burned by touching the pipes during heating season. Stories abound about unauthorized visits to the steam tunnels by students, and I hope that alumni will share some of their own recollections in response to this column.
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The second piece of equipment for the College’s boiler and cogeneration project has arrived. A crane lowered a 630-kilowatt turbine generator skid and associated electrical equipment into the heating plant Friday.
It’s estimated that the back-pressure steam turbine generator will generate 1.65 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, nearly 10 percent of the College’s annual electricity consumption.
The project is being funded partially by the College and by a grant from Efficiency Maine.
A proposed solar power complex at Bowdoin would be nearly eight times larger than any existing solar installation in Maine and would generate much of the energy used to power the school’s largest athletic facilities. The 1,300-kilowatt system, to be built partially on former Brunswick Naval Air Station land acquired by the College, would be supplemented by the installation of solar panels on the roofs of Bowdoin’s largest athletic facilities. Currently, a 170-kilowatt system at Thomas College in Waterville is the largest solar panel installation in Maine.
Bowdoin’s new steam turbine in the central heating plant is up and running, and initial tests have been positive.
In its first two nights of operating, the turbine produced 300 kilowatts, enough electricity to meet half of the north campus’s demand of 600 kilowatts, according to John Simoneau, Bowdoin’s capital projects manager.
And when the turbine was tested Friday, it produced 600kW, which met approximately 43% of the total electricity demand on the campus. Total demand that morning was 1400kW. With higher steam demand, the turbine can produce up to 630 kilowatts. For more on this story, click here.
In December, Bowdoin President Barry Mills announced that the College would not divest its endowment of fossil fuels, a decision subsequently supported by Bowdoin Student Government and by the editors of The Bowdoin Orient. Mills and other College officials believe that sustainability—not the largely symbolic act of divestment—is the most effective way for Bowdoin to mitigate the effects of climate change. But with all of the focus on the endowment, it’s easy to miss what Bowdoin is actually doing to improve sustainability on campus. The BDS sat down with Senior Vice President Katy Longley ’76 to learn more about the tangible steps already underway.