About the Plant
The University of Vermont operates its own "district energy" plant located in the center of main campus. The Plant generates steam and chilled water to serve the campus needs for space heating, air conditioning, domestic hot water generation and scientific research support. High-pressure steam and chilled water exits the facility and is distributed to campus buildings through a network of insulated underground pipes.The Plant is operated and staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
All of the equipment inside the facility-- including the boilers and chillers-- are used on a rotational basis. The redundancy built into the system allows for reliability, flexibility, backup capacity, and for regular preventive maintenance to be performed. A diesel-powered generator is available to keep the system going in case of a major power outage.
For over a half century, this centralized district energy system has grown through efficiency and innovation to supply the UVM campus with a reliable source of steam and chilled water.
Steam from the Plant is distributed to many campus buildings where it is reduced in pressure in order to feed steam heating coils, domestic hot-water heaters, sterilizers and humidifiers. As the steam sheds its thermal energy to the building systems, it cools and condenses back into water. This water-- or "condensate"-- is collected within each building and returned back to the central system through the network of underground piping. The condensate is then “polished” (a process to remove any minerals and sediment picked up in the pipes along the way) and then fed back into the steam boilers to make more steam.
Chilled water produced centrally at the Plant is also piped underground to many main campus buildings and is used for space cooling (i.e., air conditioning). As heat is removed from each building by the chilled water, the water recirculating back to the Plant is warmer than when it started. This heat is "rejected" by passing through a set of cooling towers. Learn more about Central Cooling.
System Controls and Monitoring
The operating engineers working inside the Plant use an extensive system of computers to monitor, assess, and remotely control the heating and cooling of most campus buildings. These computers take into account outside air temperature and humidity along with real-time indoor temperatures to produce comfortable and functional building environments.