Williams uses energy to heat, cool, and ventilate buildings, to run electronic equipment, to cook meals, heat water for showers, and much more.
These dials show the amount of energy that the campus is currently using – readings are updated every ten minutes.
Many buildings on campus – especially the large ones towards the geographic center – are heated and cooled using central systems like the central heating plant and central chiller. Smaller buildings, especially those on the outskirts of campus often have independent heating and cooling systems that are a lot like normal residential boilers and air conditioners (only larger).
Central Heating Plant and Cogeneration
The central heating plant provides steam for heat and hot water to many buildings on campus. It has the ability to burn either natural gas or heavy fuel oil, a thick liquid biproduct of gasoline refinement. Greenhouse gases and other emissions from heating the campus (and generating electricity) are much lower when a high percentage of natural gas is burned.
Cogeneration is the use of a primary energy source to produce more than one useful form of energy. In Williams’ case, the primary energy source is either heavy fuel oil or natural gas, and it is used to generate both electricity and steam that heats campus buildings. More of the primary fuel is needed to generate the combined electricity and heat, as a higher pressure of steam is necessary to drive the generator than to heat the campus. However, the combination is more efficient than generating either electricity or heat alone, as the waste heat from the electricity generation is used to heat buildings. Electricity is only cogenerated during the heating season when the plant is on.
The central chiller uses electricity to chill water, which is then piped to buildings on the north side of campus for air conditioning during the summer months. Some of the larger buildings on campus (such as Jesup and the Science Center) have independent chillers that cool those buildings. These large central chilling systems are generally more efficient than smaller air conditioning units.
In 2004, Williams installed our first solar array on top of Morley Science Center. Since then, we have installed a number of other arrays – ground-mounted and roof-mounted at the Library Shelving Facility, at Weston Field, on top of Sawyer Library, and on and around the Class of 1966 Environmental Center. All these arrays are connected to the power grid.