Make Way for Trenches! A College Plans to Scrap Its Entire Heating System

By District Energy posted 05-15-2019 00:00


Lawrence Biemiller, The Chronicle of Higher Education


Make No Little Plans: Dartmouth Envisions an All-New Heating Network - For 119 Buildings

In 1898, when Dartmouth College opened its current steam plant, heating more than a dozen campus structures with high-pressure steam from central boilers was innovative. Over the decades, the plant has been expanded — it now serves 119 buildings — and upgraded so that it also generates electricity, and its fuel was switched from coal to oil. Even so, says Joshua Keniston, the college’s vice president for institutional projects, the whole system is “really quite dated.”

“We’re feeling like, How do we become innovative again?” he says. The answer sounds audacious: Start from scratch. And not just with a new system, but also with a new business model for it.

So the college is seeking a business partner — one with ideas, expertise, and capital — with which to build a new central plant fueled largely by wood chips from local timber operations. The plant would produce hot water, not steam, and a new network of pipes would deliver that hot water around the campus. In some buildings, connecting the hot-water lines to the current heat-exchanger system will be fairly easy, but in a number of older buildings, “it could mean going in and opening up walls,” says Keniston. 

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