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Montclair State marks new energy facility

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Construction of a new, $92 million combined heating, cooling and power facility on the university's campus kicked off today. (Montclair State University)
Construction of a new, $92 million combined heating, cooling and power facility on the university's campus kicked off today. (Montclair State University)

Montclair State University will soon have a more efficient energy system, and the school is partnering with the private sector to make it happen.

The university held a "beam signing" ceremony Friday morning to commemorate construction of a new, $92 million combined heating, cooling and power facility on the school's campus. Construction is expected to be complete by November 2013.

Gregory W. Bressler, vice president for university facilities at Montclair State, said the new system will replace a 20-year-old co-generation plant (which produces steam and energy), aging cooling plants around campus, and an underground distribution system for steam.

The system is being built as part of a public-private partnership with Energenic-US LLC. Such partnerships were made possible by the New Jersey Economic Stimulus Act of 2009.

Under the terms of the 30-year deal, Energenic will pay for the plant's construction and then operate and maintain the facility once it's built.

"The university is not financing it," Bressler said. "We have a contract and basically we're leasing (Energenic) a piece of property."

The university will then purchase the energy generated at the plant from Energenic, Bressler said. The contract factors in costs, such as part replacements, that are expected to arise over the 30-year life of the contract.

The system is expected to provide all of the school's steam, and 75 percent of the electricity needed for the 250-acre campus.

Pat Ehrhart, senior vice president for development at Energenic, said Montclair State is a good candidate for such a system because the campus has a need for steam and chilled water, and because campus facilities like dorms and research labs need energy day and night.

"It allows a plant like we're constructing to operate continually 24/7," she said. "That makes a very efficient fuel conversion. We're burning natural gas, but we're getting more or less three end use products out of one burn."

The plant represents Montclair State's second public-private partnership, and only the third statewide. Montclair's other partnership was the $211 million residence hall and dining complex known as The Heights, which was completed in 2011.

The more efficient, natural gas-fueled system also lines up with a push to bolster the school's green image. The school was designated a "green college" by The Princeton Review in 2009.

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