Notre Dame closer to cutting out coal use

More than two years have passed since the University of Notre Dame announced ambitious plans to stop burning coal by 2020 and cut its carbon footprint in half by 2030.

Since then, the tough talk has been followed by action. In addition to the Golden Dome you’ll now find a butterscotch colored barrel shaped thing that now dots the skyline on the east side of campus.

In the name of energy conservation , it's basically a tank that will hold and chill water during off peak times when electricity is cheaper, for use during peak periods.

“This is the largest infrastructure expansion in probably the university's history by far, and it's sort of a turning point,” said Paul Kempf, Senior Director of Utilities and Maintenance.

Notre Dame will spend up to $150 million on countless energy related projects to make the campus of the blue and gold a little more green.

A key piece of the puzzle involves some huge holes being created on the site of the campus power plant. Eventually, they will be filled with two brand new natural gas fired turbines at a cost of $2 million apiece, which should go a long way in helping Notre Dame to kiss coal goodbye by 2020.

“We’re trying to consume the inventory we have, we’re adding additional equipment that will allow us to be totally gas fired with oil only as a backup,” said Kempf. “Wherein probably five, six years ago, we were 85 to 90 percent of our fuel in what was coal; we've transitioned that to where it’s probably closer to that same percentage as natural gas and a little bit of coal.”

Notre Dame is also involved in off campus projects to generate clean energy.

Last summer, the area’s largest solar farm went on line. It’s located behind a university warehouse near the airport.

Meantime, work is expected to begin in early 2019 on the installation of hydroelectric turbines at Seitz Park near South Bend’s East Race.

“We're still in the early stages but we've made a lot of progress in our goal is to reduce our carbon intensity by 50 percent by 2030,” said Kempf. “We're probably in the 35 to 40 percent reduction already.”

The efforts to save energy and meet the university’s power needs without coal come at a time when those needs keep changing because the school keeps expanding.

So far, Kempf says he’s been able to offset increased power demands with increased energy conservation measures.