Renewable Fuel Design for Smith College

vanZelm, Heywood, and Shadford

VZHS Team: Ilona Johnson, Tricia Butland, Yi Zhang

2005-2006: In collaboration with vanZelm, Heywood, and Shadford, this student team developed solutions to integrate renewable fuels into Smith College’s heating plant.  The Smith College boilers, largely unchanged since upgrades in the 1970s, suffered from several shortcomings regarding emissions and efficiency; the College also faced rising fuel and electricity costs, providing incentives to upgrade its heating and electrical infrastructure. The College contracted with van Zelm, Heywood, and Shadford, Inc., to design a combined heat and power (CHP) system.  This renewable fuel project was conducted in parallel with the CHP upgrade.

After reviewing a wide variety of fuels, the students determined that recycled vegetable oil would be an excellent option for the College’s boilers.  Burning recycled vegetable oil (i.e. yellow grease) instead of fossil fuels will present substantial emissions and cost reductions, while requiring few modifications to the boiler plant.  The team identified yellow grease suppliers, designed modifications to the fuel delivery system, and created an educational website explaining the College’s energy infrastructure to the Smith community.  They also designed a campus biodiesel production and distribution system that would reduce fossil fuel consumption in Smith’s diesel vehicles.