Space behind the Sollenberger Sports Center will be used for construction of a Combined Cooling, Heat, and Power system for natural gas use on Messiah's campus.

Space behind the Sollenberger Sports Center will be used for construction of a Combined Cooling, Heat, and Power system for natural gas use on Messiah’s campus.

Joel Hoover

As part of a campus update given about a month ago, Messiah president Kim Phipps had announced that the college would be bringing natural gas to campus through a new heat and power plant.

Further details on the upcoming natural gas installation, which will be done in conjunction with UGI, were released today by Messiah’s Office of Marketing and Communications. The project–which will cost no more than $7.5 million–will begin this summer with plans to be finished by spring of 2016.

“Bringing natural gas to our campus has been a part of our long-term strategic utility planning,” said Kathie Shafer, vice president of operations. “This project will not only reduce our dependence on other fuel sources, but will reduce our carbon footprint, helping the College meet its commitments to sustainability initiatives, green practices and environmental stewardship.”

Messiah will be borrowing the $7.5 million necessary to complete the full project. The school has estimated that $800,000 will be saved annually from the project, allowing Messiah to fund the payments for this and the other projects announced last month by President Phipps. Messiah’s operational budget–which is funded by student tuition–will not be a primary source of funding for the project.

The natural gas will fuel year-round heat, electrical power, and cooling from a Combined Cooling, Heat and Power (CCHP) system that will be constructed behind the Sollenberger Sports Center. This system will give year-round electric to the Eisenhower Campus Center, and will also provide heat and cooling to several buildings on campus.

The CCHP system is also a more environmentally friendly and efficient one, with efficiency levels that run as high as 80 percent compared to the 35-50 percent levels of traditional heating and electric generators. The cleaner burning fuels and recapturing of exhaust waste have projected to reduce annual emissions equal to over 1,300 passenger vehicles, as well as avoiding the annual consumption of 723,000 gallons of gasoline and import of 15,000 barrels of oil.

Messiah’s Earthkeepers organization says that the change to a cleaner fuel is a good one, but that they believe more could be done to find better energy sources.

“Earthkeepers appreciates that Messiah College is moving away from dirtier fuels like coal, but we have concerns that investing money in natural gas infrastructure will ensure that the College will rely on fossil fuels for decades to come,” they said in a statement. “We trust that the College’s investment in natural gas will be followed by further investments in even cleaner energy sources, like wind and solar power.”

In the event of power outages, electricity will still be able to be generated to the Eisenhower Campus Center from the CCHP, allowing it to give basic services and safety for campus students if necessary. The presence of the natural gas also means Messiah will be less susceptible to propane shortages, such as the one experienced a few weeks ago.

Messiah had begun discussion for the plan as part of strategic planning for the college about eight to 10 years ago. Talks with UGI over bringing natural gas to campus have been in motion the last two years.

“The 10,000 feet of pipe we’re installing to connect Messiah to our natural gas distribution system will help the College achieve a more efficient and cost-effective, state-of-the-art system,” said Bob Stoyko, vice president of marketing and customer relations for UGI Utilities. “At the same time, the project enables us to make improvements to the West Shore distribution system that will increase capacity in the surrounding community,”

The 10,000-foot line will transfer the natural gas from UGI’s supply facility on Gettysburg Pike and run east and south to Messiah. Much of the line will be installed on private lands owned by Messiah, and no roads are expected to be completely shut down during its construction.

Carla Gross, the Executive Director of Marketing and Communications and Special Assistant to the President for Communication, added that the Division of Operations will be launching a website this summer to give ongoing updates on the project for the campus and community.


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