The “greening” of U.S. colleges and universities is presenting opportunities for engineering and construction firms.

Increasing numbers of schools that for decades have depended on coal-fired plants for steam and electricity are working to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by shifting to natural gas and biomass, says Kim Teplitzky, coal campaign coordinator for the Sierra Student Coalition, an adjunct of the Sierra Club.

About 60 colleges and universities currently burn coal, she said, but several already are planning to switch to other, cleaner fuels. For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May announced that it plans to phase out coal of its co-generation plant by 2020.

Ball State University, Muncie, Ind., started a $70-million, five- to 10-year plan to swap four existing coal-fired boilers for a geothermal system. The University of Wisconsin in Madison this summer will begin a $250-million conversion of its Charter Street steam and powerplant to natural gas and biomass from coal.

The UW project—which includes two new gas-fired boilers, another fueled by wood, agricultural waste and other biomass, and a 22-MW steam generator—grew out of a 2007 plan by Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) to phase out coal at all state-owned institutions, says Troy Runge, director of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative.

Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group, Lynchburg, Va., says it recently won a contract to design and supply a new biomass-fired, bubbling fluidized bed boiler for the University of Missouri. The 150,000-lb-per-hour boiler in 2012 will replace an older coal-fired boiler of similar output, says Karlan Seville, university spokeswoman.