The University of Florida‘s education, research, and business-related functions all rely on an intricate arrangement of energy generation, chillers, boilers, and distribution. Chilled water and steam production are critical to campus operations. These products are supplied to over 131 campus buildings for the purposes of air conditioning, heating, humidity control, and process related needs. Top-tier research facilities often require narrow climate control tolerances necessitating robust production and distribution systems.
As UF has moved closer to ending our current contract with our steam provider for the past 30 years, the organization has undertaken an extensive process to evaluate options for the future of on campus energy production. The goal is to maximize future efficiency while fulfilling the ever-growing infrastructure needs of a top-tier research institution. The upcoming Thermal Production Facility project is the culmination of an extensive master planning exercise that will ensure the operational resiliency of the University of Florida’s utilities system for 50 years and beyond. In order to achieve the desired system resiliency while rightsizing the project’s relationship to the core mission of the university from a financial standpoint, UF plans to pursue a public-private partnership to build a new campus energy plant. The goal of this partnership is for UF to become steam independent while also addressing significant deferred maintenance needs. UF’s strong position as the state’s flagship research university is reflected in credit ratings provided by Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings, well positioning UF to pursue a partnership of this nature.
It is anticipated that with the new Thermal Production Facility, UF will have the flexibility to realize as much as:
In conjunction with additional current and planned thermal utilities infrastructure projects, the construction of the Thermal Production Facility will enable the completion of a looped district energy approach to utilities management at UF . This district energy concept where a distribution network of underground pipes is used to provide heating and cooling produced at a central plant to multiple buildings provides a highly efficient solution that will provide redundancy to campus buildings.
The combined heat and power approach will provide several benefits to the university. By rightsizing cogeneration capacity, peak demand will be able to be met while allowing for an aggressive payback timeline on the initial project investment. In addition to the benefits regarding steam and chilled water production, electricity produced as a byproduct of the plant’s operations will allow UF to offset electric demand providing cost savings and the ability to provide backup utilities for prime research needs.