It’s Memorial Day, time for a new heating plant

Some of Adelphi's boilers are 60 years old. The "new" one dates back to the 1970s.

The heat is off at Adelphi University.

But that’s OK, it’s summer. By the time the cold weather rolls around again next fall, the heat will be on again – and the university will be saving more than $1.6 million annually in energy costs, while drastically reducing its carbon footprint.

After a multiyear search for the right project, at the right price, to replace its aging and inefficient boiler system, the Garden City university has embarked on an ambitious project with Canadian firm Ecosystem, a Quebec-based energy-efficiency expert known primarily for servicing healthcare customers.

The $13.5 million project will fulfill three main objectives, according to Bob Shipley, associate director of the school’s facilities management operation: replace the school’s six obsolete boilers, install a modern cogeneration unit and upgrade the “fume hoods” in all of the university’s science labs – enclosed casings that help vent chemicals and volatile fumes out of laboratory buildings.

Adelphi began researching options to replace its system of three large and three small boilers, all housed in Woodruff Hall on the east side of the campus, “several years back,” according to Shipley, who is also the university’s campus sustainability coordinator. Two of the larger boilers are over 60 years old, Shipley noted, while the third is over 40 years old, and none of the six could be considered efficient by modern energy standards.

However, campus officials weren’t thrilled with any of the options they found – specifically, with the costs. Siemens Corp., the U.S. subsidiary of global technology and engineering conglomerate Siemens AG, delivered a proposal that came close, but not quite close enough.

“We had a number, and the Siemens project came in at a higher number than we were really comfortable spending,” he said. “It was a $16 million proposal with a much longer payback – 15 years before we recouped our project investment.”

Enter Ecosystem – or, more accurately, enter Katherine Kluefer, Ecosystem’s business development manager and an old business associate of Shipley’s who’d previously represented other companies in dealings with Adelphi.

Shipley said Adelphi wasn’t considering the Canadian company, which has worked almost exclusively with healthcare customers and counts New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital and Beth Israel Medical Center among its clients. But when Kluefer stopped by just to say hello, the two quickly realized that Ecosystem’s expertise with energy assessment and sustainability could be a fit for the school.

“The timing couldn’t be better,” Shipley said. “I told her what we were looking to do and she brought in their design people and high-scale project people.”

The best suggestions, however, came from Ecosystem’s money people: $13.5 million to achieve all three of Adelphi’s goals, featuring an energy-efficient cogeneration system that would cut the university’s greenhouse gas emissions by 4,600 metric tons annually and save the school about $1.6 million per year in energy costs, primarily by reducing its electricity consumption by up to 40 percent.

Basically, Ecosystem is replacing those six boilers – which burn natural gas to produce heat and hot water – with a bigger, more efficient model and a CHP cogen system that runs on a natural gas-powered internal combustion engine. The engine spins a turbine that generates electricity, in the process producing heat. In an automobile’s internal combustion engine, heat is dumped into the radiator and released, but at Adelphi, it will be used to heat water.

“It increases our efficiency two or threefold over standard power generation,” Shipley noted.

As a bonus, the Ecosystem plan qualified the school for $2.4 million in incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

“That NYSERDA money definitely made a huge impact on us being able to afford the project,” Shipley said, adding Adelphi was also researching potential energy-efficiency rebates from its electricity supplier, PSEG, and its natural gas supplier, National Grid.

The cogen system is still in the design phase, but the six existing boilers are already being demolished. According to Shipley, the plan is to have the new boilers in place by September and the CHP cogen installed by April 2016.

“We’ll have the new boiler in place in time for this coming heating season,” he said. “So far, so good. We’re happy with the work to this point, and having that money from the state made a huge difference.”