The Central Power Plant that heats and powers most of the University of Michigan’s Central and Medical campus buildings will receive equipment upgrades focused on increasing reliability and safety.

The $23 million project was approved Thursday by the Board of Regents.

“The switchgear will include a power preservation system that will benefit critical hospital and research operations with the capability to maintain generated electric and steam supply during a disruption or loss of external utility-provided electricity,” says Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer.  

First constructed in 1915, the Central Power Plant was converted from coal fuel to natural gas in the 1960s to operate more efficiently.

The cogeneration system uses steam to heat buildings and waste steam to generate electricity resulting in an overall efficiency of 80 percent. 

The project will replace the existing 13,200-volt electrical switchgear equipment, which is beyond its typical useful life, with a system that uses the latest technology, increases reliability and system safety and improves worker safety.

It also includes the architectural, electrical and mechanical work necessary to accomplish the improvement.

The architectural firm of Black & Veatch will design the project. Construction is expected to be completed in the winter of 2019 with no impacts to parking. The project is anticipated to provide an average of 53 on-site construction jobs.

Funding will be provided from utility resources in accordance with the long-term capital plan.