A new natural gas plant will supply the main campus with one-third of its energy, reducing UCF’s environmental impact and saving millions in annual energy costs.

A giant Mitsubishi engine measuring 30 feet long by 10 feet wide will generate power for UCF’s main campus from a natural gas line. Just like a car, power is generated when the engine burns the gas.

The engine will be housed in a 5,000-square-foot plant at the corner of Gemini Circle and Libra drive, across from the water tower. The facility will be located next to the main utility plant.

UCF broke ground on the $9 million plant last week, and is scheduled to be completed in December. The university projects the plant will generate about $2.5 million in savings per year.

The energy produced from natural gas will reduce UCF’s environmental impact by 30 percent. This means that the electricity produced by the new plant will be one-third cleaner than the equivalent energy purchased from the university’s current energy supplier.

UCF’s plant will go a step further in reducing energy waste. The plant is designed to capture rejected heat from the engine and use it to fuel a chiller. Known as an “absorption chiller,” it will produce 1,000 tons of chilled water to supplement the campus underground cooling system.

“We’re doing this because natural gas is clean, abundant and cheap,” said David Norvell, UCF’s director of Sustainability and Energy Management. “That’s why energy companies across the country are investing billions in natural gas.”

UCF is the only university in Florida to invest in natural gas by building its own plant.

To connect into the natural gas source, pipes will be pushed into place underground, eliminating the need for Gemini Circle traffic to be disrupted during the plant’s construction phase.

The plant will feature an advanced system that will continuously monitor emissions, and will be designed to reduce emissions beyond current federal and state mandates.

Safety measures are a top priority. Norvell emphasized that UCF’s commercial-grade natural gas system will be more complex than a residential gas line. The system will be monitored 24-7 and features sophisticated detectors that constantly check for leaks.

UCF will hire a full-time coordinator to oversee the plant’s operation.