Ever wonder what the inside of a power plant looks like? Me too, especially since I ride past here every morning on the bike and see the inside of it all lit up. U.C. Sustainability hosted a tour that was educational and enlightening. All that equipment in front you can see lit up at night? Those are chillers that supply chilled water for air conditioning throughout campus. They run all year as even server rooms and labs need to be cooled in the winter.
What you can't see and what I really wanted to see were the two gas turbines they use for power generation. Gas turbines are really just jet engines bolted to a frame and connected by gears to a generator. The turbines are rated at 12.5 MW and could supply enough electricity for about 6,200 homes and burn natural gas. Unfortunately it wasn't permitted to photograph the turbines which is the whole reason I wanted to go. But it turns out the plant is even more amazing than I realized it would be. Downstream from the turbines fuel is injected into the 1,000°f exhausted and heated to nearly 1,800°f. This creates the steam that is pumped throughout campus to heat buildings. The most amazing thing that steam does though is to power a 20MW steam turbine that could power 10,000 homes at full capacity! Its amazing how every last bit of energy is squeezed out of the turbines for max efficiency.