PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University has selected Trigen Energy Corporation of White Plains, N.Y., as its first choice to work with the university in developing a new energy plant on the WSU campus.

“A non-binding Letter of Intent is expected to be signed with Trigen before mid-July,” said Rick Zilar, WSU’s project manager. The Letter of Intent begins the process of negotiating the specifics of the project and detailed contracts. If negotiations are successful, the contract and the specific parameters of the approximately $92 million project will be submitted to the Board of Regents for approval in October.

“If all goes as planned, construction is expected to begin in spring 2002,” Zilar said.

“Optimally, the plant could go on line as early as the fall of 2003.”

Washington lawmakers recently provided the university $23 million to help fund the state’s share of project costs.

“This potential public/private development will assure a stable energy source for the research and teaching mission of this university,” said 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.”

Since mid-March, WSU has been in dialogue with four companies, all well experienced in the development of energy-producing facilities.

“Trigen was selected as first choice for several reasons,” Zilar said. “It has both organizational depth and experience with other public institutions, including Nassau County in Long Island and the University of Maryland College Park. Trigen operates dozens of district heating and cooling systems across the nation, including systems in Baltimore, Boston, St. Louis, Kansas City and New York, just to name a few.”

The firm has expertise and strong influence in the marketing and purchase of natural gas as well as in the wholesale electric market. Trigen has experienced many years of success in the operation and maintenance of combined heat and power facilities, Zilar said.

Goals for the proposed new facility include: improving plant safety, greater fuel efficiency, energy conservation and a more environmentally friendly facility. The project also includes cleanup of site areas adjacent to the existing steam plant in efforts to create a more attractive west entrance to campus.

“WSU is optimistic it can negotiate a successful agreement with Trigen. However, if negotiations fail, WSU will explore alternate options, including other firms on the short list of qualified companies,” said Zilar.

WSU’s existing energy facility, completed in 1937, is in need of replacement, the project manager said. A new facility would provide better reliability for the university’s steam system and generate enough electricity to meet the energy requirements on campus.

Officials are looking at a new site on the east side of campus, a recommendation made by all four short-listed firms.

Informational public meetings to update the community on the energy plant project will be scheduled toward the end of July.