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Montclair CHP/Microgrid from Concept to Reality


Montclair State University (MSU) has a sustained and aggressive record of renovation and construction of its facilities to support its expanding community.   The main campus of MSU consists of 252 acres divided between the town of Montclair in Essex County and the municipalities of Little Falls and Clifton in Passaic County.  MSU has seen such rapid growth and expansion in the past 16 years under the leadership of President Susan Cole, adding 25 new buildings, adding 1.6 million square feet and renovating 217,665 sq. ft, of academic, administrative and residence life space.  With rapid expansion of physical assets and the parallel increase in student enrollment also placed a stress on the University’s aging utility infrastructure.  In the end after careful analysis MSU chose to completely replace their aged cogen facility with a combined heat cooling and power (CHCP) plant and replace the entire distribution system.
In 2013 the CHCP plant was complete and declared its commercial operation.  After only 2 years of successful operation of the new plant the University began the plans to expand the use of the Central Utility further.  In 2016 a conceptual design and energy analysis was performed to determine the feasibility and benefit of additional generation for load shedding.  The plan set out to create a robust utility infrastructure that allowed the University to operate without any connection to local utility providers.   

The concept of creating what we now call the Montclair State University Smart Micro-Grid.  The MSU Smart MICROGRID went operational in 2018 and includes automatic functions; connect and disconnect from the grid, conducts load shedding and inter connectivity that allows for the interface with other systems when necessary, in addition to the measurable economic benefit it provides.  In addition, in 2019 the utilization of new software to “predict” the five peak hours each summer on both the PJM and PSE&G (Local utility) systems.
The paper and presentation would detail how the systems work, and the results in savings to date.

Learning Objectives:
1.    Understand the drivers for modernizing campus utility infrastructure in an expanding campus environment.
o    Overview of the campus utility infrastructure prior to modernization
2.    Compare centralized vs. decentralized utility infrastructure in a campus environment.
o    Campus energy plan
o    Evaluate centralized vs. decentralized, including cost analysis
3.    In an environment of ever tightening budgets, investigate and evaluate potential sources of funding to upgrade and expand large-scale campus utility systems.  
o    Discuss Public Private Partnership.
o    Discussion about billing model – How MSU pays for it
4.    Identify challenges and solutions to upgrading utilities in an aging campus infrastructure. (Shawn)
o    Construction while campus is operating
o    Final connection of new system to old buildings
o    Challenge of attaining plant efficiency with inefficient buildings (ongoing process)
5.    The MSU Trigen Facility
o    MSU trigen facility – Describe the components of the new trigen – major components including piping distribution and 1st phase details
o    Financial performance of Co-Gen compared to utility – Shawn will provide numbers
6.    Maximizing your investment and getting the most out of your energy dollar while building reliability and redundancy into your systems.  Examine the drivers for creating a Microgrid at Montclair State University
o    Describe the financial benefits for MSU, how it would work, Evaluation of the financial viability of a Micro Grid
o    Investigation of next steps to maximize investment and improve reliability and add redundancy – explain how microgrid improves reliability and creates redundancy and why it’s necessary in a campus environment
o    MSU district energy plant proposal – describe the components of the microgrid
7.    Define and understand the various features of a Microgrid and a smart grid, highlighting the benefits and challenges.
o    Major components, technical – What’s being used in the system and how its functionality (SEL)
o    SEL relays, brains of the operation, functionality
8.    Compare energy models to actual data.  
o    Financial data from the first summer of operation



Frank E. DiCola
DCO Energy


In his role as CEO and Managing Partner of DCO Energy, Frank is responsible for directing all DCO activities, including strategic planning, project development, project management, engineering, contractor, financing, legal and any regulatory issues.

Professional History

A recognized industry expert and pioneer with over 49 years of experience, Frank DiCola established DCO Energy in 2000 with 5 employees and a small office in Atlantic City.  DCO is now an industry leader, with projects valued over $1 billion. 

Frank personally has managed and/or developed well over $1 billion of energy projects, including award winning clean energy projects, some of the largest LFGE projects in the United States, and some of the most innovative projects in North America.  Frank is regularly called upon to lend his expertise in areas including but not limited to CHP, CHCP, LFGE Biogas, BioMass, District Energy, Deep Sea Cooling and energy economics. Frank formally served on the Board of Directors of Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation.

Prior to establishing DCO Energy, Frank was a senior executive with Atlantic Energy Inc., the parent company of Atlantic City Electric and Atlantic Energy Enterprises, Inc. and was involved in establishing and running Atlantic Energy Enterprises,  the non-regulated business unit of Atlantic Energy. Throughout his early career, Frank has held positions with Stone & Webster Engineering Corporation as Engineering Manager, Lead Engineer, and Project Manager for fossil, nuclear, and industrial work.  Initially, Frank started his professional career working at Cincinnati Gas and Electric serving as a Power Plant Engineer responsible for installation, operations and maintenance of the County’s first gas turbine plants including the one of a kind Dick’s Creek 100 mw generating unit.  He later transferred to assist in the development of the William Zimmer Nuclear Plant and was assigned to participate in the startup of Georgia Power’s Hatch Nuclear unit.  


Frank attended the University of Cincinnati where he received a BS in Mechanical Engineering and is Licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) as well as an ASME Lifetime member. He is also member of American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

Kyle Gandy, PE
Electrical Engineering Manager
DCO Energy

Mr. Gandy is responsible for managing the electrical development of energy related projects.  His role extends from conceptual design, engineering, construction, and system-start up.  His duties also include managing procurement of equipment and services, witness testing of electrical equipment, negotiation of legal contracts and agreements, budgeting, accounting, scheduling, and reporting.  Proficient in electrical systems modeling software programs SKM and Etap utilized in power system studies.