“We’re feeling like, How do we become innovative again?” he says. The answer sounds audacious: Start from scratch. And not just with a new system, but also with a new business model for it.
So the college is seeking a business partner — one with ideas, expertise, and capital — with which to build a new central plant fueled largely by wood chips from local timber operations. The plant would produce hot water, not steam, and a new network of pipes would deliver that hot water around the campus. In some buildings, connecting the hot-water lines to the current heat-exchanger system will be fairly easy, but in a number of older buildings, “it could mean going in and opening up walls,” says Keniston.