New York University today announced the completion of its natural gas-fired Co-Generation (CoGen) plant, which decreases greenhouse gas emissions by 23% while reducing air pollutants by 68% compared to its 30-year-old, oil-fired CoGen predecessor.

NYU Switches on Green CoGen Plant and Powers Up for the Sustainable Future

CoGen Helps NYU Meet Bloomberg’s PlaNYC Climate Challenge Six Years Ahead of Schedule

New York University today announced the completion of its natural gas-fired Co-Generation (CoGen) plant, which decreases greenhouse gas emissions by ~23% while reducing air pollutants by 68% compared to its 30-year-old, oil-fired CoGen predecessor. 

Located beneath a renovated public plaza at 251 Mercer Street, the new CoGen plant approaches 90% energy efficiency while producing 13.4 megawatts of electricity—twice the output of the previous system.  

"I am pleased that NYU, already one of the country's greenest universities, continues to improve its sustainability profile as a responsive partner to the mayor's plan for a greener New York,” said Michael Alfano, NYU’S executive vice-president.  “I also am proud of our operations team that brought this difficult project on line, and delighted that we have been able to take some pressure off of the electric grid in New York City."

The comprehensive, state-of-the-art $125 million CoGen upgrade and public plaza installation project took 28 months to complete. It is the one of the largest private CoGen plants in New York City, and provides electricity to 22 NYU buildings, up from 7 buildings with the old plant.  The new NYU CoGen system will also produce heat and hot and chilled water to 37 buildings on the Washington Square Campus, and is expected to save the university $5-8 million in energy related costs per year. 

“This CoGen plant is unique in New York and certainly around the country because of its efficiency,” said John Bradley, assistant VP for Sustainability, Energy, and Technical Services. “NYU’s CoGen will be well into the 90% range of efficiency, where a typical boiler plant is 50-60 percent efficient.” 

CoGen is the cornerstone of NYU’s 2010 Climate Action Plan (CAP), a comprehensive approach to reducing the University’s carbon footprint and enhancing its overall sustainability.  NYU’s CAP was spurred on in part by the signing of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC Climate Challenge, which calls on all city colleges and universities to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2017.

Prior to the CoGen upgrade, NYU had made significant progress in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, cutting them by 20-25% over just four years, from a peak of ~179,000 Metric Tons Carbon Equivalent (MTCE) in 2006 to ~125,000 MTCE in 2010. With the addition of CoGen coming on line, NYU’s total emissions are expected to drop approximately 20% more, to about ~98,500 MTCE.   This not only fulfills the Mayor’s Challenge, but surpasses it by an additional ~10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, reaching a total of ~40%.

“NYU’s new cogeneration plant will save money, reduce carbon emissions and improve the reliability our electrical grid,” said David Bragdon, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability.  “The project is a model of achieving the triple bottom-line that will move the City closer to achieving its PlaNYC goal of reducing emissions 30% by 2030.”

Key statistics of NYU’s CoGen:

  • Two 5.5 megawatts (MW) gas turbines and a 2.4MW steam turbine;
  • Approaching 90% overall efficiency;
  • Providing electricity to 22 buildings up from 7 with the old fuel oil CoGen;
  • Providing heat to 37 buildings;
  • 23% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions;
  • 68% reduction of EPA Criteria Air Pollutants (e.g. NOx, SOx, PM-10);
  • One of the largest private co-gen plants in NYC;
  • Produces twice the electrical power of the old facility – at 13.4 megawatts – and avoids the combustion of 500,000 gallons of fuel oil annually;
  • All-digitally controlled for better monitoring and maximum efficiency.
  • Installation of a 13,000 sq. ft. public plaza on Mercer Street using native plant species, and providing 190 linear feet of seating space.

How NYU’s CoGen Works:

Compressed natural gas fuels twin high-tech gas turbines that work very much like jet engines. As the turbines operate, their rotation is used to generate 11 megawatts of electricity, and the hot waste exhaust from them is directed to heat recovery generators, which produce steam. (pdf graphic)

Once 600 pounds of super-heated steam is created in the generators, it is piped to a turbine electrical generator, which produces an additional 2.4 megawatts of electricity. After the steam has passed through the turbine generator, it is used to make hot water for the campus in two high-temp heat exchangers, and it is used to operate a turbine-driven chiller to produce 2,000 tons of chilled water.  In using a mechanical energy turbine, being turned by steam to run the chiller’s compressor, this further increases the efficiency of the CoGen plant as it saves electric energy. 

About the Renovated Mercer Plaza:

NYU—in cooperation with Community Board #2—convened a 15-member Community Advisory Committee (CAC) comprised of neighbors, Community Board members, a local business, elected officials, and an NYU student and professor to assist in the planning and design of the new plaza, which was constructed directly above the CoGen plant.

Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA) was hired to lead the project, and the community-engaged process has resulted in a new green space that integrates the interests and concerns of as many stakeholders as possible. Prior to construction of CoGen, the site contained two parallel sidewalks and two fenced/gated areas with trees, shrubbery, and some ground cover.  There was no seating at street level.

Conceived as a green urban plaza beneath the canopy of a park, three garden-size “rooms” with wood decks and 190 linear feet of benches have been carved out of the planting beds to provide space for sitting and relaxing. A strong, seasonal palette of 18 native plants species, including 22 new trees, creates a lively ground plane for the benches and informal seating located throughout the upper and lower plazas.  The lighting has been designed to allow for ample security but not to disturb neighboring buildings at night.  

The selection of materials stresses a natural feeling. Paving and decking was chosen to deter skateboarders while remaining fully ADA compliant. Additionally, the bench seating has been designed to discourage overnight visitors. An ADA ramp on the southern end leads to a second level open space and the entrance of Warren Weaver Hall, the home of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.  The raised plaza also contains planters as well as movable seating and chairs—all accessible to the public.  

About New York University:

New York University is located in the heart of Greenwich Village. Founded in 1831, it is one of America’s foremost research universities and a member of the selective Association of American Universities. It is one of the largest private universities, it is a leader in attracting international students and scholars in the U.S, and it sends more students to study abroad than any other U.S. college or university. Through its 18 schools and colleges, NYU conducts research and provides education in the arts and sciences, law, medicine, business, dentistry, education, nursing, the cinematic and performing arts, music and studio arts, public administration, social work, and continuing and professional studies, among other areas.

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