By Alexis Schulz
The Trigen Plant, which has popped up on the Lawrenceville campus next to Gill Chapel, will produce electricity while creating hot and chilled water.
Associate Vice President for Facilities and Auxilary Services Mike Reca said the trigeneration system, nicknamed Trigen, can produce 1.1 megawatts of electricity from natural gas, powering a quarter of the campus’s usage.
“There is a new network of pipes to the buildings to distribute and return water to four academic buildings,” said Reca.
For the Trigen Plant, hot or chilled water is pumped through a new piping system to four academic buildings: Fine Arts, Science, Memorial, and Sweigart. The byproduct of the plant is heat, which is quickly turned into a usable resource.
During the heating season, hot water sent to the buildings replaces the need for boilers, and chilled water replaces the need for chillers during the air-conditioning season.
The plant uses an absorption chiller to produce cold water for air conditioning. This machine is suspended from an opening in the roof, which is slanted to keep out rain and is intended to cool the four buildings.
“A machine takes the heat byproduct and absorbs the moisture,” said Reca. “Coils then can trap the moisture and cool the water.”
By capturing the heat byproduct, the Trigen Plant will produce a net efficiency of power generation of approximately 66%. The average utility generator is only 25-40% efficient.
Rider will reduce its energy bill and greenhouse gas emissions by using the plant, and Reca said students would be pleased to know the building will not produce any smell or noise.
“The whole building and each machine will be insulated,” he said.
Geoffrey Scognamiglio, a sophomore environmental science major, feels Trigen will benefit the environment and Rider’s finances.
“Using a single clean energy source to generate electricity, heat and chilled water, Rider University’s Trigeneration Plant is both reducing consumption of natural resources as well as Rider’s utility expenses,” he said.
The building is going to be completed on July 1, and the overall cost of creating the Trigen Plant is $6.5 million. A grant to Rider from the State of New Jersey paid $1 million. Reca said weather and delivery delays made construction difficult at times, but the campus will benefit greatly from it.
“The most difficult part was trying to get through the maze of pipes in certain sections,” he said.
An unseen complexity lies beneath students’ feet as they stroll between academic buildings. Rider’s “underworld” is a crisscrossing maze of vital conduits under the ground that provide utilities to campus. Without them, Rider would quickly turn into a ghost town. Laying the Trigen pipes last summer, crews has to snake the conduits over, under, and around the existing underground utilities – water pipes, gas lines, telecommunication cables, electric conduits, sewerage and storm runoff systems.
Trenton Water Works supplies the water for the campus in two ways. There is an underground system that is piped from Route 206 for domestic water for drinking and daily use.
“Water on campus constantly moves, so it’s constantly refreshed,” said Reca.
A separate set of underground pipes allows adequate pressure to fight a fire, because there is a pump station in one of the residence halls, which is used to pressurize this system. It stands in the pipes, so it’s not good to drink.
Rider buys natural gas for heating. The gas comes from Route 206, and a “mole” created the 1,500-foot tunnel to the plant site in six days to transport the gas to the Trigen Plant.
Fiber-optic cables run under the campus and go through the buildings – 250 miles of cables in all – and carry voice, data and TV. Typically, 3,500 devices are connected to the data network at any given time, along with approximately 4,000 wireless devices, using 600 Wi-Fi access points.
Electricity for the campus is supercharged at 26,000 volts. Transformers located behind West Village reduce it to 4,000 volts. The electricity then travels through underground lines, and then is stepped down at each building to 110 or 220 volts.
“It’s fed from two different locations and provides a backup system in case one of the power stations fails,” Reca said. “The university has more power than what we need right now, which makes the campus expandable for the future.”
Sanitary lines collect what people flush and carry it to the under-street sewers of Ewing-Lawrence Sewerage Authority (ELSA). After multi-step treatment and disinfection at ELSA’s plant, the cleaned-up water flows through the Assunpink Creek to the Delaware River.
The campus handles stormwater runoff to prevent flooding of Little Shabkunk Creek, which empties into Centennial Lake near Gill Chapel and exits near the footbridge. What excess rainfall is not absorbed through the grass into Rider’s natural aquifer can filter through the permeable asphalt of the newer parking lots and enter small pipes with thousands of little holes. These pipes let the water out slowly and prevent the lake from flooding.
“We have a storm water runoff system all over campus,” Reca said. “We now actually have porous parking pavement as well, which allows the water to seep through, and that water dumps into the creek eventually.”