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Bye, bye, BYU smokestack; school dumps coal for greener power

PROVO, Utah — Nobody noticed when BYU kissed coal goodbye last month.

That will change over the coming week, when crews begin to knock down the university's landmark smokestack, the symbol of 140 years of coal burning.

In place of the condemned chimney at BYU's Central Heating Plant, the university will build three smaller stacks for a new cogeneration facility. A natural-gas-powered turbine will replace the coal boilers and provide all the heating and cooling needs for the campus.

It also will generate enough power to offset one-third to one-half of the university's electrical needs.

The savings will be significant. A 2008 story in the student newspaper said BYU spent half a million dollars a month on electricity during the winter and $625,000 a month during the summer.

The heating plant is located south of the Wilkinson Student Center and Crabtree Technology Building near the Clyde Building.

BYU previously took steps to reduce coal emissions by installing a "bag house" that kept 99.99 percent of all particulate matter from polluting the air.

The cogeneration facility is an improvement.

"A co-gen facility is considered a green source of power and will reduce our emissions significantly," said Paul Greenwood, BYU director of engineering and utilities, in a university news release.

Crews continued preparations Tuesday for the demolition, which is likely to begin Monday. The smokestack will come down in pieces with crews working manually and with a backhoe.

The smokestack was completed in 1958. The new cogeneration plant is expected to be completed in 2018.

The work comes months after two other landmark smokestacks fell about a mile to the west of campus.

In August, a crew demolished Provo's twin smokestacks, erected in 1939 and 1949. The demolition marked the end of the city's old coal-fired power plant. Provo switched to natural gas about 20 years ago and retired the stacks in 2000.