Note: Reporters and photographers may take a tour of the existing WSU steam plant at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 24. Please call Hugh Imhof at 509/335-4528 or Rick Zilar 509/335-5571 for details.

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University is seeking proposals from potential partners in a venture to redevelop its energy plant on the Pullman campus. The facility would provide a reliable heating and energy source for the university with the potential for sale of excess electricity.

An informational public meeting on the proposed plant will be held in Pullman at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 5, in the Neill Public Library. All interested parties are invited to attend.

WSU’s existing energy facility is aging and in need of replacement. The plant was completed in 1937. Today it presents both operational and safety concerns. Fueled by both coal and natural gas, the old plant produces steam, which serves both the heating and research needs of the university. Steam is also used to generate approximately 10 percent of the electricity used on campus. Outside power must be purchased to meet the total campus energy load.

A new facility would provide better reliability for the university’s steam system, and generate enough electricity to meet 100 percent of the energy requirements on campus. It is anticipated that a modern plant will also generate excess electricity for outside energy sales. The new plant would likely use natural gas and some other fuel such as coal for a backup. State of the art environmental controls will be part of the design.

WSU is proposing a partnership with a private or public entity that would participate in financing, fuel supply, power marketing, design, construction and operation of the completed facility. “If we are successful, this joint venture will assure a stable energy source for the research and teaching mission of this university,” says Greg Royer, vice president for business affairs. “The new power plant would help shield WSU from the uncertainties of the energy market for the long term.”

Royer notes that the goals for the new facility include improving plant safety, fuel efficiency, energy conservation and greatly reduced environmental impact. He says the project would also involve a cleanup of the existing steam plant site and result in the creation of a far more attractive west entrance to campus.

WSU has been exploring options for replacing its aging steam plant for more than a year. The university is requesting an allocation of $25 million to help fund the state’s share of replacement costs. The governor has provided 23 million in his budget proposal.

Royer says the project will ultimately save taxpayers money. A relationship with an outside entity in the energy business would allow the university to leverage the state’s contribution and build a modern facility instead of merely repairing the existing plant. The project would be more energy efficient and provide power at a lower cost.

The university hopes to get input from all stakeholders in the process, and a series of public meetings will be held. “Community input is vitally important to this project and we hope to hear from everyone who has concerns or suggestions,” says Royer.

Proposals are being solicited from potential partners in the project. The proposals are due March 2.