When Johns Hopkins recently saw an opportunity to
simultaneously save some green and be
"green," the decision was clear: You greenlight the
project, of course.
The university next year plans to build a cogeneration
plant on the Homewood campus that will
supply a significant portion of the campus's energy needs
and will reduce its electric bill by an
estimated 15 percent.
The proposed plant, which will run on natural gas,
will generate not less than 3.5 megawatts of
electricity — roughly 20 percent of the campus's
current peak requirements. It will save the university
$1.5 million annually and, because JHU will purchase less
electricity from regional coal-burning power
plants, will reduce the campus's carbon footprint.
"Cogeneration" refers to creation of both power and
heat. The plant's turbine drives a
generator that creates electricity to help power buildings;
meanwhile, a heat recovery unit captures
the turbine's exhaust to make steam used to supply hot
water and heat.
In 2007, electricity on the Homewood campus cost $10
million. Faced with soaring utility costs,
Johns Hopkins decided now was the right time to take
energy-production matters into its own hands,
said Larry Kilduff, executive director of facilities.
Kilduff said that the university has considered the
viability of cogeneration power for the
Homewood campus since 2000, but the economics never made
sense until now.
"The physical growth of the campus, on one hand,
provided the opportunity to take advantage of
the waste-heat product," Kilduff said, "but it was the
steeply rising cost of fuel and electricity that
all of a sudden made this a very attractive and significant
Kilduff said the proposed plant could pay for itself
in less than five years.
The addition of a cogeneration plant, Kilduff said,
dovetails nicely with the university's Climate
Change initiative and its efforts to reduce its carbon
footprint. The cogeneration plant alone
represents at least a 10,000 metric ton reduction in annual
carbon dioxide emissions, Kilduff said.
Davis Bookhart, manager of Energy Management and
Environmental Stewardship in the Office
of Facilities Management, said that the Homewood
cogeneration project is "by far the single most
significant opportunity to date for taking a huge bite out
of our greenhouse gas emissions.
"To put this in perspective, we would need roughly
175,000 solar panels — enough to blanket the
entire Homewood campus two times over — to offset
that much CO2," said Bookhart, who is also chair
of the Johns Hopkins Sustainability Committee, a 16-member
group convened by President William R.
Brody to enhance the university's environmental profile.
Bookhart added that the plant's design allows for
increased generation capacity in the future.
David Ashwood, director of plant operations for the
Homewood campus, described the future
Homewood plant as a "small jet engine." Specifically, he
said, as the spinning turbine drives a generator
creating electricity, the heat recovery unit will capture
the engine's exhaust to make 20,000 pounds
of steam per hour, the base level that the campus can
efficiently use year-round. The steam will be
used to heat the campus's water and its buildings, to power
coolers for air conditioning and to provide
steam to kitchens in residence halls and the Johns Hopkins
During the summer months, the plant should allow the
university to turn off the Power House
boilers, Ashwood said.
The new plant will be an addition to the existing
campus Power House, located at the northern
tip of Whitehead Hall. The modest two-story addition will
be built on the site of the current 14-space
The university expects to put out a request for bids
in January. If all goes as planned,
construction will begin in March and the plant put online
in October. State-issued bonds will help cover
the cost of the plant's $7.5 million price tag.
Since the plant runs on natural gas, it will have the
added benefit of being a source of
emergency power. In the event of a power outage, the plant
could power up a significant portion of the
campus, Ashwood said, and keep many critical facilities
running. He added that the generator will
require minimal maintenance and will run continually.
Energy production is not new to Homewood. The Power
House was built in 1914 to provide a
source of power for the then fledgling campus. The building
was expanded in 1948 and still provides all
the university's steam and heat, as well as a large portion
of the air conditioning needs.
Cogeneration technology had been around for decades,
and a number of universities have
already gone this route, including Cornell, Yale, Rice,
Princeton and Stanford. Johns Hopkins will be
only the second university in the state to have its own
cogeneration plant, however. The University of
Maryland in 2003 constructed a $70 million, 27-megawatt
plant in College Park to help reduce its own
massive energy bill.
Johns Hopkins Medicine is currently engaged in a
feasibility study for the addition of a
cogeneration plant on the East Baltimore campus.