Utilities at Duke

The Duke Utilities & Engineering Services (DUES) in the Facilities Management Department provides utilities to both University and Medical Center facilities on and around East and West Campus.

Electrical System

With no on-campus power generating facilities, Duke purchases all its electricity from Duke Energy. Duke’s electric system on campus consists of five distribution substations, over 15 miles of duct banks and 62 miles of electrical cables. While Duke Energy has four main sources in its generation portfolio, energy is primarily produced using coal and nuclear fuel. Duke Energy, is planning significant changes to their infrastructure over the next 40 years to comply with state laws and in anticipation of federal carbon legislation.  As part of the Climate Action Plan, self-generation of power will be studied as a future option, both large and small scale, depending on whether Duke Energy achieves its climate commitment goals, as well as future electricity costs.  Currently, Duke Energy can produce electricity more economically and with a lower emission factor than Duke University would be able to on campus.

Chilled Water

Over the past eight years, Duke University developed the majority of a Central Chilled Water System (CCWS) that consists of two central plants (28,000 ton cooling capacity) and 14 miles of distribution piping.  The University’s Utility Master Plan confirmed that the central production and distribution of chilled water is the most efficient and economical method to provide the cooling needs for Duke University’s campus including the School of Medicine and Medical Center.  Duke’s centralized production and distribution of chilled water creates a 20 percent improvement in chilled water production electrical efficiency compared to a previously decentralized system.  The system provides chilled water for process equipment cooling and building air conditioning in a reliable and cost effective manner.

Steam System

Duke University’s Steam System provides high-pressure steam to the entire Duke University, Hospital and Medical Center community by using natural gas and fuel oil.  As of April 2011, Duke eliminated the use of coal in steam plants on campus. Steam is distributed through 35 miles of distribution piping and is used for space heating, hot water heating, dehumidification, hospital medical equipment sterilizing, dining services, pool heating, dishwashing and other process uses.

West Campus Steam Plant

Duke’s West Campus Steam Plant was built in 1929 and is located near Research Drive.  In February 2009, the plant received its last coal delivery by rail car, as the campus moved towards eliminating coal burning on campus.  Until then, it was the primary plant for heating East and West Campus in addition to the de-humidification of structures and sterilization of machinery for Duke Health.  

In April of 2011 the West Campus Plant burned its last load of coal and began utilizing natural gas.  This fuel change was an important step in the execution of the Duke Climate Action Plan.  With the renovation that enabled the fuel change, the West Campus Steam Plant received significant upgrades in auxiliary equipment, including the addition of a condensing economizer.  This device allows for significant energy recovery and maximized plant efficiency.

East Campus Steam Plant

Steam PlantDuke’s East Campus Steam Plant was built in 1929 and is located on the eastern end of Campus Drive, near Smith Warehouse.  The 6,600-square-foot plant was used to heat Duke’s buildings from 1929 to 1978.  In May 2008, the Duke Board of Trustees approved funding to renovate the plant which will add overall capacity to the steam system, provide for future growth and will rely on burning natural gas, which produces lower emissions and greenhouse gases than coal.

The renovated plant opened in early 2010.  It features 15 natural-gas powered Miura boilers, which require less water and time to produce steam and utilizes propane as a backup fuel.  Read more about the steam plant and how it is contributing to Duke's carbon nuetrality goal.

On-site Renewable Energy

Duke's Climate Action Plan calls for Duke to leverage research and explore biogas, solar PV, solar thermal, combined heat and power, and other technologies.  In 2011, Duke installed 45 solar-thermal panels on the roof of the Bryan Center.  Duke's Facilities Management Department and the Energy Subcommittee of the Campus Sustainability Committee continue to explore additional renewable energy opportunities.