The university’s public affairs office said an investigation will be launched into the cause of the explosion. According to student-run newspaper The Daily Californian, campus officials said the explosion was related to a power outage caused by the theft of copper wiring at an electrical facility off campus.
The cogeneration plant uses a natural gas-fired GE LM2500 turbine generator to produce 25 MW of electrical power and 4 MWth of steam, which is distributed through a series of underground tunnels to heat campus buildings. The plant is operated by GE and has been online since 1987, with an upgrade in 1998.
On-site power and heat are common features of the University of California’s 10 campuses — such as UC Irvine’s 18 MW cogeneration plant which uses a combustion turbine and heat recovery steam generator with a chiller addition. And UC San Diego’s combined heat and power facility, which features two 13.5 MW gas turbine generators, is part of a campus smart microgrid system that incorporates photovoltaic solar panels and fuel cells and meets over 90 percent of the campus’s power needs.
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