Purdue University Wade Utility Plant
Wade Utility Plant is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Purdue University on Purdue campus in West Lafayette, Indiana. The power plant supplies steam for electricity and heating as well as chilled water for cooling the campus' buildings. There are four steam generators at the Wade Power Plant consisting of two coal units, one oil/gas-fired unit, and one fluidized-bed coal boiler, also called a "clean coal" unit. The plant burns more than 150,000 tons of Indiana coal per year.
Proposed plant expansion
In the week of July 15, 2010, Purdue University gained tentative approval from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to expand the plant. In 2009, the trustees approved the purchase and installation of a coal boiler at $28 million. The boiler will replace the existing, 50-year-old Boiler No. 1. Purdue officials have said that replacing the 50-year-old coal boiler with a cleaner burning version and adding a $7.5 million natural gas-fired boiler will significantly lower soot and mercury emissions on the campus. IDEM's decision was effective immediately, but interested parties have 18 days from the letter's mailing to file a petition asking the state to reconsider the decision. The Sierra Club wants to review Purdue's decision process, including how officials reached its projected emission reductions. 
On July 29, 2010, the Sierra Club and the Hoosier Environmental Council challenged the school's air permit in an appeal that says regulators failed to fully assess how much pollution the project is expected to emit. The appeal also contends that the state permit lacks sufficient protections to control those emissions. The appeal was received by the Office of Environmental Adjudication, which settles disputes over decisions made by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). IDEM spokesman Rob Elstro said the agency will defend the permit and demonstrate that the final permit complies with all applicable rules and regulations.
Both of the coal boilers release sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, mercury, and soot. Purdue estimates the cleaner-burning coal boiler and natural gas unit will reduce emissions significantly, with the various pollutants cut between 40 percent and 90 percent. In their appeal, the two groups allege that IDEM used a "faulty" analysis when it determined that the new coal and natural gas boilers do not amount to a "major modification" of the plant, which would trigger additional pollution controls under the New Source Review section of the Clean Air Act. The appeal also contends that the permit contains insufficient protections to ensure the plant won't emit dangerous levels of soot, smog, and toxic compounds like hydrochloric acid.
Purdue spokesman Chris Sigurdson said the school examined cleaner energy options, including wind turbines, but determined that coal was the most "reliable and viable" power source: "We think we've created a good plan and that's what the permit is." The school also looked at geothermal energy systems like the one Ball State University is installing to eliminate use of its coal-fired boilers by tapping into the earth's nearly constant temperature for campus heating and cooling. Sigurdson said, however, that geothermal systems were deemed impractical for Purdue because while Ball State has 75 buildings, Purdue's campus has 375 buildings and a total population of about 50,000 that essentially makes it a medium-sized town. He said that if fuels such as biomass from plant matter someday become available, the new boiler would be able to burn those instead of pulverized coal.
On October 14, 2010, protesters gathered to show their opposition of Purdue's decision to replace the coal powered boiler. The protestors stood still to symbolize Purdue's decision to remain frozen in the 19th century and not move into a clean renewable energy future. The Sierra Club held the demonstration on Purdue's West Lafayette campus as the Board of Trustees met. Protesters said Purdue is one of 60 universities to still burn coal and the only one planning to invest in a new coal boiler. Purdue has said previously the new boiler will be "clean coal" technology, although a 2010 GAO report said the technology is at least 10-15 years from realization.
Expansion plans canceled
On February 3, 2011, the Purdue University Board of Trustees voted to cancel the $53 million Wade Utility Plant expansion based on financial and regulatory concerns. According to vice president of physical facilities Bob McMains, the estimated increase in fuels costs along with expected future regulations for coal waste made the expansion unworkable. School officials plan to install a natural gas boiler rather than a coal boiler to replace the existing 50-year-old Boiler No. 1. a resolution in February 2011 canceling plans to add a new boiler.
- Owner: Purdue University
- Parent Company: State of Indiana
- Plant Nameplate Capacity: 41.4 MW (Megawatts)
- Units and In-Service Dates: 10.6 MW (1969), 30.8 MW (1995)
- Location: 423 South Grant St., West Lafayette, IN 47907
- GPS Coordinates: 40.416206, -86.912533
- Electricity Production: 97,614 MWh (2005)
- Coal Consumption:
- Coal Source:
- Number of Employees:
- CO2 Emissions:
- SO2 Emissions:
- SO2 Emissions per MWh:
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Articles and Resources
- Eric Weddle, "Permit opens door for Purdue boiler project" jconline.com, July 15, 2010.
- Rick Callahan, "Activists appeal Purdue coal power unit permit" AP, July 29, 2010.
- "Frozen people protest coal at Purdue" WLFI, October 14, 2010.
- Eric Weddle, "Purdue pulls plug on new coal boiler," Journal & Courier, February 4, 2011
- Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration, accessed Jan. 2009.
- Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007.
- Facility Registry System, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accessed Jan. 2009.
- Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed Feb. 2009.
- NETL Coal Power Plant Database, National Energy Technology Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy, 2007.
- AirData Query Database, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accessed April 2009.
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