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Ecoline™ Behind the Scenes

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
October 28, 2009

The big pizzazz moment for UNH’s EcoLine™ project came during the 2009 commencement when Alan Davis of Waste Management appeared on the Jumbotron and announced that a percentage of the university’s power was now coming from purified methane gas naturally produced by their Rochester landfill.

The declaration was a milestone for a project that began years earlier. Quieter. With the help of so many behind-the-scenes players that Paul Chamberlin, assistant vice president for Energy and Campus Development, paused while trying to name them all.

“I’ve often been the project spokesperson as the project was being developed but frankly, a lot of other people besides me were involved,” Chamberlin says. “This has been an incredibly complicated project with many different facets. It has taken a true team effort of people with different skills to make it happen.”

One of those key players was Larry Van Dessel, project manager for EcoLine™ .

“The project has been a huge portion of our workload for quite some time,” Van Dessel says. “So, it was a great relief when that switch was flipped—it was great to see it work. We were convinced that it would but there’s that little bit of doubt until you really know.”

Van Dessel, Chamberlin says, headed up much of the construction. Project manager Dave Bowley worked on modifications at the combined heat and power (cogeneration, or co-gen) plant, coordinating outages and other aspects of the conversion.

Jim Dombrosk took care of the energy and utility office details such as air permits and regulatory interfacing. Charlie Croteau, relatively new to the team, was the project manager involved with the 12.7 mile-pipeline. Don Houde was tasked with overseeing the electrical components of the job.

Van Dessel praised Croteau and Houde for stepping up when retirements resulted in losing key personnel, adding that their expertise brought strength to the project.

He called working on EcoLine™  a privilege.

“Projects like this rarely come along,” he says. “We knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime. The process went well. It tested our basic knowledge and we got to apply what we’d learned.”

Matt O’Keefe, campus energy manager, was instrumental in navigating the needs of the regulatory agencies and obtaining renewable energy certifications.

One of O’Keefe’s jobs was to help with the financial modeling to determine how much money would be saved with the project compared to the current heat and power source.

“Although the main objective was to replace the natural gas we currently use, we then became eligible for new revenue streams like power sales and capacity credits (from our second turbine), renewable energy certificates for both turbines, and potential future revenue from carbon offsets if we look at capturing CO2 emissions from the processing plant,” O’Keefe says. “After all that was modeled using various scenarios illustrating the variability of the inputs, the project looked worthwhile.”

O’Keefe came to UNH a little more than four years ago, when the project was in its early stages of design. The chance to work on EcoLine™ was one of the reasons he wanted to work at UNH.

“To have a project of this magnitude at UNH, where I graduated, was very exciting to me and I am thrilled to be a part of it,” O’Keefe says. “I feel very proud that we have helped change how we use energy in this region and look forward to more innovative energy programs at UNH for years to come.

Tracy Boyle and Rhonda Sharpe have managed the financial transactions that go with a $49 million project. Support also was given by the USNH staff.

“I was truly blessed with a great team and they did a tremendous job in managing this ground-breaking project. My hat is off to them,” Chamberlin says.

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