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A 16 MW combined heat and power (CHP) plant is now operating on the southern edge of Purdue University’s West Lafayette, Indiana campus.

The gas-powered plant was built and is owned and operated by Duke Energy. It produces electricity for the company’s Indiana customers and provides thermal energy in the form of steam for Purdue’s heating and hot water needs.

Through an approved agreement, Duke Energy will sell to Purdue the steam the plant produces. The plant can produce up to 150,000 pounds of steam per hour, according to the utility. 

By using steam from the new CHP plant, the university will have more operational flexibility. In the event of an electric grid disruption, the new plant could provide emergency power to help keep the campus running.

In combined heat and power, or cogeneration plants, heat that would otherwise be wasted in the production of electricity is captured and used. Because of this, CHP plants require less fuel to produce the same amount of total energy, resulting in reduced environmental emissions.

According to Duke Energy, the new plant is projected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 50,000 metric tons.

In 2019, Purdue trustees approved leasing one acre of land to the utility, which allowed for the building of the CHP plant.

Duke Energy has pursued similar CHP plant partnerships with universities and other institutions.

The utility also has a CHP plant at Clemson University in South Carolina. Duke Energy and Clemson, along with Siemens Energy, teamed up to study the use of hydrogen for energy storage and as a low-carbon fuel source at the Clemson CHP plant. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a $200,000 grant for the pilot research initiative.    

The pilot, called H2-Orange – a nod to hydrogen gas and the collaboration with Clemson University – began in March 2021 and would include studies on hydrogen production, storage and co-firing with natural gas.

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