FAIRBANKS — Construction on the University of Alaska Fairbanks Combined Heat and Power Plant is almost done, according to project manager Mike Ruckhaus. 

“We’ve had reliable heat and power at UAF for decades and this is really needed to replace our aging equipment so we can guarantee heat and power for the university into the future.”

Ruckhaus has been working on the power plant project since the idea first gained traction in 1998. 

“The project started in 1998 after an event here at the university, which prompted a desire to have a replacement for our existing facilities,” Ruckhaus said. “We studied it well over the years and in 2010, it really gained momentum and determining how to proceed forward. Then we got a little funding and an air permit in 2014 and then funding followed shortly after from the Legislature for construction.”

The facility has been in the procurement and construction phase since 2014.

Ruckhaus said the newly updated plant will be much more efficient than the older model. 

“It’s considerably more efficient,” Ruckhaus said. “We can get about 20 percent more steam out of the coal with this plant as compared to the old plant.”

Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities Services Scott Bell said the new power plant will use approximately the same amount of coal, but, because of massive efficiency improvements, it will produce much more power. 

With campus at the size that it is now, the current power plant uses about 200 tons of coal a day and about 77,000 tons a year. Bell said this will decrease the university’s need to purchase excess electricity. 

Final construction is focused on control wiring in the facility. Construction on the facility is anticipated to conclude with the facility up and running later this fall. 

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.