Medical School wins $5.6m power grant for campus plant upgrade

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The new 7.5 MW turbine at the UMass Medical School power plant.

University of Massachusetts Medical School has won a $5.6 million energy efficiency grant from National Grid to make upgrades to its campus power plant. The cash will go toward helping the medical school add capacity to its power plant while reducing emissions. UMass Medical School is spending $50 million to expand and improve its power plant.


Natural gas as fuel

The biggest upgrade is a new 7.5-megawatt jet turbine that will burn natural gas to provide electricity to the medical school and connected hospital, UMass Memorial Medical Center. The new turbine is far more efficient than existing equipment at the power plant, including machinery that is four decades old. The school is expanding the power plant to keep up with growth and prepare for the new Albert Sherman Center, a $400 million research facility slated to open in December. 

Though the Lake Avenue campus is connected to the grid, it relies almost entirely on its own power plant. The plant provides electricity, heating and cooling to the complex of tall medical buildings. Workers have built a 14,000-square-foot addition on the power plant, which sits at the northeast corner of campus, near Lake Quinsigamond. Other new features at the power plant include an improved heat recovery steam generator and chiller. 

The newly installed jet turbine, when it's up and running later this year, will replace an older, less efficient boiler that dates to the early 1970s when the power plant was constructed. In the 1980s, most power at UMass was generated from burning oil, said Steven Blair, the medical school's assistant director of energy resources. These days, the plant runs on natural gas but has oil in store as a backup.