Washington State Universitys plan to build a big power plant on its Pullman campus has been scaled back, but the project could get under way as early as June.
If the plant receives various approvals, it would entail construction of a $56 million, combined-heat-and-power system that would generate up to 28 megawatts of electricity plus steam to heat the schools Pullman campus, says Lori Lamb, WSUs associate vice president for personnel and administration.
WSU would own the plant, but would contract with a companyprobably Trigen Energy Corp., of White Plains, N.Y.to operate it, she says.
The university would partly pay for the project with $23 million it received from the 2001 Legislature in the 2001-2003 biennial budget, and probably will issue bonds to finance the balance, Lamb says.
Initially, WSU had considered building a plant that would generate 50 megawatts of power, which is far more electricity than the school needs for its own use, and taking on a partner to own part of the plant and sell the excess power.
Lamb says that WSU since has scaled back its plans, in part because, We just want to have something that is more aligned with the university and not complicated with sharing ownership with a private entity. In addition, the energy market has cooled down considerably since WSU first announced plans for the larger plant, and it might be more difficult for the school to find a partner now than it was earlier.
The market for excess power generation has substantially gone away, she says
A 28-megawatt plant would have enough capacity to serve WSUs power needs now and in the foreseeable future, Lamb says. WSUs peak power demand currently is 23 to 24 megawatts of electricity, although more typical demand is 13 to 15 megawatts, she says.
As currently envisioned, the natural gas-fired plant would have two combustion turbines and two heat-recovery steam generators, Lamb says. Steam generated by the plant would be routed through the schools existing steam-distribution system, with some modifications, since the new plant wouldnt be built at the site of WSUs 1937-vintage steam plant, she says.
The school expects to build the plant on several acres of campus property near the southeast corner of the intersection of Grimes Way and Olympia Street.
To move forward, the project needs approvals from WSUs board of regents, regulatory and government bodies in Olympia, and from Avista Corp., the Spokane-based utility that now provides WSU with much of its electricity, Lamb says. Even if WSU generates its own electricity, it must sell most or all of that power to Avista, then repurchase it from the utility, because the power would flow through two Avista-owned electrical substations in Pullman, she says. Details of that potential transaction, such as the price Avista would pay WSU and the price it would charge to sell the power back, havent been resolved, she says.
Lamb says that the school could start doing preliminary work for the plant as early as June, and, if approvals proceed smoothly, construction of the plant could begin by late this year. In the best-case scenario, the plant would be on line in the early part of 2004, Lamb says.
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