The new Grimes Way Steam Plant was used for the first time on Aug. 9 to admit steam to the Washington State University heating system. Testing of all three boilers, fueled both by natural gas and diesel, is continuing with hopes of having the plant fully functional by early September, said Mike Nearing, energy plant manager for Facilities Operations.

“We’ve made progress and we’re pleased, but we still have a ways to go,” he said, adding that, because of the plant’s original, innovative design and stringent emissions requirements, the startup process has been more time-consuming than engineers first anticipated.

Meanwhile, a new control system at the College Avenue Steam Plant on the opposite side of the Pullman campus was installed in late July. Expectations are that testing of that system with a pair of 3-year-old natural gas boilers will be completed by mid September, Nearing said.

Funding of $23 million was allocated by the state legislature for the $41 million Grimes Way plant. Construction was substantially complete in December 2003. The College Avenue plant was commissioned in 1937.

When fully functional, the three Grimes Way boilers and two College Avenue boilers will work in tandem to provide steam for heat campus wide.

About 2,000 tons of coal remaining at the College Avenue plant, which was stockpiled as an emergency backup fuel, will be consumed in late October or early November, Nearing said. After that, the only remaining active coal-fired boiler will be decommissioned, joining three other previously decommissioned coal boilers.