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Work Begins on Upgraded UAF Heat and Power Plant

Plant meets critical infrastructure needed for university services and research investment in the future

FAIRBANKS-Today, Senate Finance Co-Chair Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) joined University of Alaska-Fairbanks Chancellor Brian Rogers, Senate President Charlie Huggins (R-Wasilla), Senate Majority Leader John Coghill (R-North Pole), and Senator Click Bishop (R-Fairbanks) for the groundbreaking ceremony to upgrade UAF’s Atkinson Heat and Power Plant. Over the past twi years, Senator Kelly worked with the rest of the Interior Delegation, Senators Coghill and Click Bishop, to put together the financing package for the 17-megawatt plant.

Not in Order:  Senators Pete Kelly, Charlie Huggins, John Coghill and Click Bishop join Chancellor Brian Rogers for UAF Power Plant Groundbreaking

Passed by the Legislature and enacted by Governor Sean Parnell this year, Senate Bill 218, provided the University of Alaska with $157.5 million of revenue bond issuance authority for the combined heating and power plant (CHP). The plant will replace the current CHP, which was designed in the 1930’s and is feared to be at the brink of a catastrophic failure. Replacement of the aging boilers at UAF was stated as the top priority this year by the UA Board of Regents, the UAF administration, the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, the FNSB Assembly, and the Interior delegation. 

“Replacing the power plant wasn't ‘a want to have’. It was a ‘got to have’ because we simply cannot let critical infrastructure fail,” said Senator Kelly. 

The new CHP will also create savings through new high-efficiency boilers, which could decrease most particulate and gas emissions by more than 50 percent.    Scheduled for completion in 2018, it provides the lowest operating costs of any of the other alternatives. It represents a commitment to mining and coal as part of the future of Alaska while concurrently reducing all regulated emissions compared to the current plant. Finally, the CHP major upgrade provides for an infrastructure foundation that will offer low annual operating costs to the State and University for the next 50 years.

“From the years I spent at the university, the piece that stood out is the research on that campus,” said Senator Kelly. “We need that heat and power plant for a lot of reasons, but there are hundreds of millions of dollars of research, and those dollars will go away if we have a failure in the plant and those dollars won’t come back for years and years.”

In addition, construction of the CHP will create a significant increase in construction jobs and economic activity within the state of Alaska during 2015 to 2018 time. In addition, UAF has historically served as a place of shelter for Alaska residents during disasters. The upgraded plant would heat and power campus independent of the larger electrical grid, which would allow campus to continue to serve that public safety role in the Interior.

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