PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University, Trigen Energy Corporation of White Plains, N.Y., and others hope to start construction soon on an energy plant on the campus’ eastside. The project was approved by the university’s Board of Regents at its May 10 meeting.

Lori Lamb, associate vice president for business affairs, told Pullman City Council members Tuesday (July 9) that during the last year, the university has discussed 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.

The plan with Trigen 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 as the campus grows. The primary fuel source will be natural gas. The plant equipment will also include an oil-only boiler 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 megawatts, but this occurs very few times a year, Lamb said. The average demand for electricity is currently from 14-15 megawatts. “Thus, in the early years of plant operation (assuming no growth in campus demand) there will be anywhere from 5 to 14 megawatts 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 that 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 about $60 million, so the nonprofit corporation will issue the remaining amount necessary to complete construction 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 an agent for fuel purchases and management, as well as management of potential excess power sales.

The university is also working with the local utility, Avista Utilities, regarding electrical interconnections and back-up power.

University officials believe 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.

University crews will start this fall to prepare the site along Grimes Way for the new plant. Construction of the plant will begin in March 2003 with an optimistic operational date for the plant in spring 2004.