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Power Plant Spotlight

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Category: campus experience Video duration: Power Plant Spotlight
Get an insider's look of the Virginia Tech Central Steam Plant with Ted Acord, power plant maintenance manager.
I've had some long days in this plant but I don't remember having a slow day. Here at the Virginia Tech Power Plant, we are co-generation plant, now a lot of people refer to this as a combined heat and power plant. What that means is as Virginia Tech generates steam for the campus to heat the buildings and processes, we utilize that steam prior to sending it to campus to generate electricity and then we put it out on the grid. We actually operate around 80 percent efficiency, where utility companies usually operate around 35 percent efficiency on good days. We use natural gas as a primary fuel now, bituminous coal and number 2 fuel oil as a backup. Last heating season was the first year that we did not burn any coal in the plant, in the history of the plant. And we're hoping for another heating season that we don't have to burn it either. As long as natural gas supply maintains as we need and as it should, and we should be good to go. And we've actually achieved and go beyond what the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) has required. We're allowed up to .246 parts per million BTUs of our NOx rate going out on a 30 day average. We actually, I think we shut down the boiler on a .19 So significantly under, you know? Our SO2 we have to remove at least 92 percent. We averaged 98 to a 100 percent. A plant operator is just as much of a skill trade as a mechanic or a welder and stuff. Because there's so much to learn, so much to do, there are so many engineering aspects in this building that goes on and I think that's what I like about it. Mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical, structural, process engineering. It's, it's all bundled up in here and you get to taste a little bit of every one of them pies. We have a great team here and we work together. And everybody's got a little piece of what they know a little bit more about something than somebody else does. It's actually kind of a blessing to be able to work in this world and to see so much of the stuff. And maintain that pressure to campus for the steam and maintain the air supply, the compressed air and domestic hot water. Compressed air to send out which is utilized by all the labs and laboratories and stuff like that, air handling units and a lot of control systems out on campus. And then the steam is utilized to heat the buildings. Again in the Dietrick Halls where they cook the green beans and wash their dishes with it. They're doing laundry service, they're you know, just all kinds of stuff. We supply that for them. It takes a lot of work and energy and know-how and, and as a team, we're able to maintain that.