Members of the media joined airport officials on a construction “hard hat” tour of the replacement Central Utility Plant at Los Angeles International Airport April 11.
The new $438-million energy-efficient, computer-managed utility plant will provide the heating and energy needs of LAX, which is undergoing a modernization effort. The tour provided an opportunity to see the interior of the facility before it goes into operation with the completion of Phase 1 construction this September.
“The Central Utility Plant at LAX is a perfect example of growing Los Angeles green,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said.
“As part of the $4.1 billion retrofit of LAX, the upgraded utility plant meets the demands of a thriving 21st century international airport while maintaining environmental sustainability. By following the city’s daily energy cycle, the new plant allows LAX to work smarter, not harder, in our efforts toward increased energy efficiency.”
The four-story, 64,000-square foot facility will replace the existing 50-year-old utility plant and complies with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification standards, airport officials said.
The new plant’s turbine will produce electricity and steam that will also help power a second set of generators to meet cooling and heating requirements in LAX buildings, airport officials explained. The equipment reduces fuel consumption by up to 30 percent when compared to power generation done separately, they said.
Officials added that the new facility will be 60-percent more efficient in producing chilled water, using a thermal-energy storage tank with capacity for 1.6 million gallons of water and 15,500 ton-hours of cooling.
Water will be cooled late at night when electricity rates are lowest, and it can then be used to cool the terminals during the day when passenger traffic is at its peak. The design eliminates the need to use a 3,260-ton chiller during the day, airport officials say.
“The need for reliable utility service and greater energy efficiency is the reason that the new CUP is so crucial and why it will be the true heart of LAX when completed,” said Van Thompson, senior construction engineer at Los Angeles World Airports.
Phase 1 of the project includes the plant itself along with all its major systems – water and electricity distribution systems. Phase 2 entails demolition of the nearly 50-year-old existing plant facility and the activation of the cooling towers. Construction on Phase 2 will continue through August 2014.

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