Sometime this week, UGA will receive its last coal train, as the university prepares to phase out its coal-powered boiler.
“The boiler was 50 years old,” said UGA spokesman Pete Konenkamp. “It was getting harder to maintain it and find parts for it.”
The boiler is a back-up, part of the system that generates steam to heat buildings on campus.
Konenkamp said replacing it with an electric boiler will save the school several million dollars over time, plus it will cut down on emissions.
No more coal on campus, also means no more trains on the tracks that run through campus.
“If you’re going to ask me if it’s sentimental, no, it’s not,” said Konenkamp. “But it is a milestone.”
Konenkamp said the school was going to do this anyway. But students who ran a “Beyond Coal” campaign consider the end of the boiler a win.
“It was kind of emotional,” said Tyler Faby, of the announcement that the boiler would be phased out. He’s a UGA senior who was involved with the campaign. He said he’ll be looking out for that last coal train.
“I guess it’s something we’re going to watch,” he said. “Hopefully get a few shots and maybe frame them.”
This week’s train is delivering about 600 tons of coal. UGA officials plan to use it up this winter, and switch to the new boiler next fall. That new electric boiler will likely still rely on coal to some extent, since about a third of the electricity on Georgia’s grid comes from coal.