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No More Coal Burning At Ball State

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Very soon coal will no longer be the fuel of choice at Ball State University near Indianapolis, Indiana; this is according to officials at the campus. For hot water and general heating purposes, the university will continue to use its three natural gas-powered boilers.

The university is planning to stop burning coal for steam production in the month of March. It currently has four coal-fired boilers which have been in operation for over 6 decades and consume more than 35,000 tons of coal every single year. Revisions made to the federal Clean Air Act influenced this decision. If they hadn’t taken this particular course of action, the university would have been forced to install a new emission control system at the old coal plant so as to remain compliant.

According to the officials, such a move would not have made financial sense considering the fact that the University was less than two years away from the completion of a new geothermal steam generation plant. Work on the project commenced in 2010 with the overall cost estimated at around 70 million dollars. The major task was the drilling of more than three thousand boreholes in different locations within the campus.

The plant is 50% complete and is already being used to supply some of the University’s heating needs. In fact, its use has reduced the need to produce steam — through other means — by around 40 percent. Ball State University supplies some of the heat it produces to Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Hospital which uses it to sanitize surgical equipment. The campus has a population of around 18000 students. The geothermal heat produced by the plant is sufficient to keep the buildings within the campus warm but not for dishware and medical equipment sterilization.

According to an official at the University, there are still certain parts of the campus that don’t get sufficient steam, for example, the dining and health sections. He claims that steam production makes a great deal of sense and therefore the university will continue to invest in its generation for a long time to come.

The amount of pollution generated by the University is quite significant. According to emission reports, almost 1500 tons of sulfur dioxide and well over 80,000 tons of CO2 are released on an annual basis courtesy of Ball State University’s heat generation activities.

There are a number of health benefits that will be realized after the campus’s coal-fired boilers are finally shut down. For one, the production of soot and a host of other elements that can lead to respiratory ailments like asthma will be significantly reduced. If everything goes as planned, the two smokestacks located on the southwestern boundary of the campus will be torn down by mid 2015.