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Central Energy Plant

Central Energy Plant

This page exists to house information for the community related to GRU’s involvement with the University of Florida’s Central Energy Plant Project. This opportunity to potentially collaborate with UF on its new energy facility is significant and is anticipated to be a large-scale and long-term undertaking.

Central Energy Plant Project FAQs

University of Florida:

These questions were adapted from the University of Florida’s official project website.

What is the Central Energy Plant Project?

The University of Florida plans to identify a partner with which to build, finance, operate and maintain thermal and electrical services for its campus. UF has named Jacobs Engineering Group their technical advisor who has prepared partial design specification and a master plan. Design for the plant includes:

  • Construction of a new Central Energy Plant that will offer efficient steam, chilled water, and electricity from Gale Lemerand Drive. This plant will use a combined heat and power production method.
  • A South District thermal piping distribution loop implemented to improve chilled water and steam delivery to campus and hospital facilities.
  • A new electrical substation to be located on Mowry Road.

This energy plant is planned to have the capacity for 25,000 tons of chilled water, 230,000 pounds of steam per hour, and up to 50 MW of power. UF anticipates it will generate over $2.8 million in chilled water utility savings annually, as well as $13.2 million annually in Combined Heat and Power utility savings. The substation alone is estimated to save UF over $10 million throughout the life of the project.

What is combined heat and power energy production?

Combined heat and power (CHP) is the production of both electricity and useful heat at the same time, from a singular fuel or energy source.  CHP can generate on-site electricity and recovered heat for more efficient generation of steam, hot water, or other thermal needs.
Standard CHP plants have an efficiency of 70-80% compared to conventional operation, which has a total efficiency of 50-60%.

How did UF decide on this method for the future of meeting on campus utility needs? What alternatives were considered?

Prior to moving forward with a plan, technology options were compared by UF’s team for cost, known energy requirements, local impact, environmental impact and construction and timeline feasibility. Combined heat and power was selected as it provides the best overall solution while establishing a baseline for future integration of other energy distribution concepts. This results in an efficient, resilient, long-term model for meeting the needs of the university.

Why is UF pursuing this project?

UF is approaching the conclusion of their contract with Duke Energy for steam, and the related infrastructure is due for decommission by 2027.  UF is committed to investment in utility infrastructure in order to maintain and increase reliability and ensure that the university continues to be well-supported by these systems. Moving forward with this project now will ensure campus energy needs are met well into the future.

Gainesville Regional Utilities:

Is GRU pursuing this project?

Yes. Gainesville Regional Utilities has put together a team with great experience to pursue this project. UF is procuring the plant through a competitive process known as an Invitation to Negotiate. GRU plans to submit a proposal for the opportunity to design, finance, build, and operate a Central Energy Plant to provide a resilient source of electricity, steam, and chilled water to support the needs of the UF campus.              

If GRU is involved, will it affect the cost of GRU service for customers?

The Central Energy Plant provider will be selected through a competitive solicitation process, and there is certainly no guarantee that GRU will be the winner of that process. If GRU is ultimately selected and the plant is constructed, owned, and operated by GRU, the additional net revenues generated by the project could mitigate future electric rate increases and/or provide stability in general fund transfer capabilities.

Does GRU have experience with similar projects?

Yes. GRU is the owner and operator of the South Energy Center (SEC), a combined heat and power facility that provides onsite energy to the UF Health South Campus. The SEC serves the entire energy needs of the UF Health Cancer, Heart and Vascular, and Neuromedicine hospitals by providing electricity, emergency power, chilled water, steam, and hot water, as well as medical gas infrastructure. The SEC and the UF Health South Campus are inside a microgrid that can operate as an “island,” meaning that it can lose electrical power from the grid and, through onsite generation, still provide the entire energy needs of the hospitals without service interruption. This arrangement provides a high level of reliability and resiliency for these critical medical facilities.

What advantages will GRU have over other competing companies?

GRU is teaming with engineers, construction contractors, financial partners, and legal counsel that have extensive experience with competing for and constructing these types of projects. As a publicly owned utility, GRU has access to lower financing costs than many of its competitors, which will help to yield an overall lower cost for UF. GRU has over 800 local skilled and educated employees ready to support the facility. Finally, GRU has the demonstrated ability to collaborate with its customers to build efficient, resilient, and robust state-of-the-art energy plants to support its customers’ missions.