PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University officials plan to update the community on its new energy plant during a meeting planned for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 30, in Neill Public Library’s Hecht Community Room.
The WSU Board of Regents has approved university plans to go forward with contracts for the development and operation of the university’s new energy plant, said Greg Royer, vice president for Business Affairs.
During the last year, the university has been discussing detailed analysis regarding the best option for replacement of its steam plant, now 65 years old. This analysis included analyzing options ranging from simply replacing the existing steam plant to constructing a larger combined heat and power facility.
Presently, the plan under discussion with Trigen Energy Corporation calls for a 28-megawatt combined heat and power plant that will be constructed near Grimes Way and Olympia Avenue. The plant will contain two combustion turbines, two heat recovery steam generators, a condensing steam turbine and a nearly 100-foot stack. The plant will be able to meet in excess of 100 percent of the university’s steam and electrical needs now and into the future as the campus grows. The primary fuel source will be natural gas. The plant will also have a back-up fuel source, number two fuel oil, for emergencies or other needs. The university will no longer be burning coal as a fuel source in Pullman.
Two new gas-fired package boilers that were recently installed at the existing steam plant will also remain operational in order to help better distribute steam to the campus.
Currently, the university’s peak demand for electricity is roughly 23 MW, but this occurs very few times a year, Royer said. The average demand for electricity is currently from 14-15 MW. “Thus, in the early years of plant operation (assuming no growth in campus demand) there will be anywhere from 5 to 14 MW of electricity available for short term spot sales on the electric power market. Excess electricity will only be generated when it is economically advantageous to the university.”
The plant will be 100 percent owned by a nonprofit corporation set up for the benefit of the university which will issue tax-exempt bonds to finance a portion of the construction costs. In July 2001, the state legislature awarded the university $23 million for plant construction. The overall cost of the plant will be approximately $56 million, so the nonprofit corporation will issue approximately $33 million in tax-exempt debt.
The university and the nonprofit corporation will contract with Trigen to operate and maintain the plant. The two also will contract with Trigen and/or an affiliate to act as agent for fuel purchases and management, as well as management of potential excess power sales.
University officials believe that the combined heat and power option is the best option for the university, Royer said. “This option provides the University with the most reliable steam and electricity at the lowest cost of all the options,” he said.
As early as June university crews will begin to prepare the site along Grimes Way for the new plant. Construction could begin later in August with an optimistic operational date for the plant in spring 2004.