Combined Heat & Power

Most of UM’s existing buildings are heated with steam from our natural gas-fired boilers. This steam travels around campus via underground tunnels. The boilers are from the 1960's and are due to be replaced, along with much of the plant’s aging infrastructure. UM has purchased two combustion turbines - one steam turbine and a heat recovery steam generator that will be able to generate up to 5MW and will replace one of the old boilers. 

 Exterior rendering of UM's Combine Heat and Power Plant

The image above is an architect’s rendering of the new building containing the CHP operation. It will be appended to the existing central heating plant and was designed with guidance from the Montana State Historic Preservation Office. 

The greatest benefit UM will see from CHP is a significant savings on utility expenses driven by the low cost of natural gas relative to purchased electricity from NWE. Beyond the financial incentive, considerations include:

  • The new CHP plant will be designed with multiple units and turndown capabilities so it can be operated at a reduced load as more renewable's come on line at UM.
  • Plant will be capable of burning bio-gas and hydrogen, when available, which would make its output a non-carbon source.
  • The plant will burn less fuel than is currently burned at a remote central generating plant due to the losses in the transmission and distribution of electricity.
  • The central plant will provide “firming” capacity after significant renewable's are on line so power can be provided when rrenewable are not generating. Having firming capacity right on campus means more self-reliance in case of a catastrophic event and less reliance on NW energy infrastructure.


 If you have comments or questions, please send an email to

June/July 2021

Final review of air permit by City/County. Environmental Assessment complete. Public comment concluded June 11. UM collects and responds to public comments on the Environmental Assessment.

September 2021

CHP construction begins.

Winter 2022

Construction, inspections and commissioning complete in December 2022.

Project Documents