Investment management firm Harrison Street has entered into a long-term public-private partnership (P3) with Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Massachusetts, for the university’s on-campus utility system.
Under the terms of the 40-year deal, Harrison Street will lease, manage, operate, develop and finance the WPI’s utility system, while Cogen Power Technologies will serve as the operator of the facility. As part of the agreement, Harrison Street is looking to add an estimated 1 MW in solar energy on the campus, pending design, engineering, interconnection and diligence considerations. The company is evaluating who the optimal solar partner will be for WPI. Battery storage is also being considered as part of WPI’s utility system as well.
WPI is a top-tier technological university that has pioneered project-based learning. The univerisity has a total enrollment of more than 7,000 students. As a result of the 40-year P3 agreement, Harrison Street will be the exclusive energy provider for WPI, accelerating the university’s strategic efforts to reduce its carbon footprint by improving its power plant, expanding energy-conservation measures, and developing sustainable energy system upgrades and technologies for the WPI campus.
Harrison Street and WPI have already identified a series of projects spanning not just solar, but combined heat and power (CHP) and efficiency updates, all of which will reduce the carbon footprint across the campus. In addition, they are exploring other projects that could include developing microgrids for the campus and alternative energy technologies, such as geothermal wells.
“Our district energy portfolio continues to grow, and with that has come an evolved understanding of how we can optimize critical infrastructure to benefit higher education institutions and other organizations,” said Carolyn Arida, managing director and head of utilities at Harrison Street. “Working alongside Cogen, we look forward to leveraging our capital and industry expertise to advance the sustainability goals and initiatives of WPI, its faculty, and its students.”
WPI’s partnership with Harrison Street reflects the university’s ongoing commitment to achieve carbon neutrality in its operations. WPI adopted its first Sustainability Plan in 2014, focusing on reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. In early 2022, WPI partnered with other colleges and universities through Second Nature to address climate change
“As a university committed to the application of knowledge and research to solve the world’s most challenging problems, we aim to be at the forefront of developing, implementing, and transitioning to clean technologies,” said Winston “Wole” Soboyejo, interim president of WPI. “We must also ensure that we are contributing to climate change solutions. This partnership allows us to do both: WPI’s campus will become a living laboratory where student, faculty and staff can work side-by-side with Harrison Street and Cogen on projects and research that will result in innovations that address some of the major energy and environmental challenges in the world.”
Cogen has prior experience in providing all-inclusive energy services for hospitals and colleges.
“Owning and operating a cogeneration plant on a hospital/college campus has provided us the unique opportunity to gain perspective on the complexities of the development and implementation process from both sides of the table,” said John Moynihan, managing partner at Cogen. “We look forward to leveraging that expertise to maximize the cost and energy efficiency of WPI’s utility system.”
Harrison Street’s social infrastructure strategy focuses on the unmet infrastructure needs and sustainability goals of universities, health systems and government users. The transaction marks Harrison Street’s second university P3 utility system privatization and the fourth district energy asset. The firm has invested $4.8 billion across 47 assets in P3 opportunities with universities, health systems and municipalities.
— Solar Builder magazine