New Turbine for Blackstone Steam Plant
It's taken years of careful planning and construction, a trans-Atlantic voyage, and the combined teamwork of hundreds of people; but Harvard's new 5-megawatt cogeneration turbine has a new home inside the Blackstone Steam Plant. This intricate piece of equipment will not only lessen the amount of electricity the University buys but it will also reduce Harvard's greenhouse gas footprint.
To do this, the turbine will use the steam already being produced at the plant to generate electricity through a process known as combined heat and power. Here's how it works. The boilers inside the plant generate steam that heats 80% of Harvard. In the past, the steam would be sent from the boilers in the plant directly to the buildings. Now, some of that steam will first be used to spin the turbine before leaving the plant. In the end, that's up to five megawatts of electricity Harvard can generate itself just by using the existing steam. To put things into perspective, five megawatts is enough to power well over one thousand homes each year.
Soon after Harvard bought the steam plant from NSTAR in 2003, Engineering & Utilities (E&U) began working on this project. The initial study just to determine feasibility took about a year. E&U Project Manager Doug Schmidt said the turbine itself cost about $2.5 million and it was about another $1 million to install it. That might sound like a lot of money but economically it makes sense because the University will recoup that investment through the energy savings.
The turbine was manufactured in Italy, shipped across the Atlantic, and brought by truck to Blackstone. The off-loading process was a two day affair that provided a bit of anxiety. "When you hoist a multi-million dollar piece of equipment into the air, you just really hope everything goes according to plan," said Schmidt. We're glad to say everything did go as planned and the turbine is situated in its new home where it will most likely stay for several decades.