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Steam Tunnel Update and Biomass Testing


Meeting Highlights
Neighbors’ Meeting:  Steam Tunnel Update and Biomass Test Burn
April 29, 2010

About 25 people attended the meeting Wednesday evening for an update on the steam tunnel construction and a preview of the test burn of woody biomass.  You can read meeting highlights below. You can also view the power point presentations  Electric Ductbank Project – Completed January 2010 and Alternative Energy Overview and Cofiring Biomass at Cogen.

Steam Tunnel/Cogneration Facility

  • Construction of the tunnel structure is about 90 percent complete through the corridor behind homes.
  • As the tunnel structure is completed, work begins on piping inside the tunnel.  Construction activity through summer 2012 will primarily be inside the tunnel.  Above the tunnel, vehicle and equipment movement may be noticed with intermittent construction work to connect new sections of tunnel. 
  • Excavation and shoring in advance of tunnel construction on the Miller site will continue to be noisy. 
  • Above ground temporary piping will carry steam from Pittsboro Street through Carolina Inn site to South Columbia Street while new tunnel is built.
  • Tunnel will cross South Columbia this summer, mid-May through mid-August, requiring lane closures.
  • A temporary bridge will be put in place on Pittsboro Street to allow construction of tunnel below the street.  When complete in January 2012, Pittsboro Street will return to its normal grade without the hump. 
  • Meet with adjacent neighbors in spring 2012, as project nears completion to finalize plans for landscaping of steam corridor.   
  • Construction will begin soon on 11,000 sq ft, three level storage building at rear of Cogen site, approved as part of special use permit in 2005-06.

UNC Climate Action Plan

  • UNC signed American Colleges and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007 and began development of Climate Action Plan.
  • Goals are for emissions in 2020 to return to 2000 level and to be carbon neutral by 2050. 
  • UNC has studied many alternative energy strategies and is beginning construction of landfill gas recovery system this summer.
  • Burning a biomass coal substitute looks promising with first testing to begin this spring after receipt of air quality permit.

Biomass Test Burn

  • Likely will test burn dried wood pellets with possible later testing of torrefied wood (wood chipped and heated) depending on availability of material.
  • Target is to replace 20 percent of energy production with biomass.
  • All emissions from facility are currently below regulatory thresholds and national standards for ambient air quality.
  • Wood pellets may increase emissions of some organic chemicals but emissions will remain well below regulatory thresholds and national standards for ambient air quality.
  • Biomass materials will first be tested in laboratories followed by a test burn of about 20 tons (1/4 rail car).
  • Follow-up tests will move from 5% to 20% levels to confirm safe boiler operation and performance.
  • If tests are successful and the supply of biomass is reliable, could begin regular use in 2012.

We enourage our neighbors to tour the Cogeneration Facility.  If you would like to schedule a tour, please contact Phil Barner at or 843-8305. 

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