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WSU signs contract to improve energy costs

2:08:02 PM CDT - Wednesday, April 05, 2006

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Faced with dramatic increases in utility costs that could have impacted programs and budgets, WSU has signed a 15-year contract with an Overland Park-based company that helps government agencies develop energy conservation programs and upgrade facilities to reduce energy costs.

WSU is using the state's Facility Conservation Improvement Program, which allows WSU to enter into an agreement with Custom Energy Services to implement projects in more than 45 buildings on campus.

WSU was expecting its annual energy costs to rise by about 25 percent this year, or about $1 million, said Woody DePontier, director of WSU's Physical Plant.

By installing more efficient boilers, chillers and lights, among other things, WSU will be able to redirect what it would have spent in increased utility costs and instead cover the cost of the improvements, which will have longer-lasting effects, said DePontier. The company guarantees WSU will save $1.1 million a year in utility costs.

WSU will pay Custom Energy Services more than $12.25 million for the improvements, which will be completed over the next year. Some of the projects start later this month.

"There won't be many buildings on campus that won't be impacted," DePontier said.

One of the more costly upgrades, which will result in the most inconvenience across campus, DePontier said, calls for replacing about 26,000 T-12 fluorescent light fixtures with magnetic ballists with T-8 fluorescent lights with electronic ballists, which are recognized in the industry as brighter lights that use less energy.

One study, according to the U.S. Energy Department, showed that a 440,000-square-foot building reduced its energy consumption by 40 percent through such a retrofit.

"We'll try to minimize the disruption and notify offices before we go through and do the work," said DePontier.

Other big-ticket improvements are replacing the central energy plant's boilers that are more than 30 years old and upgrading other environmental systems, some installed in the 1950s and 1960s.

Morrison Hall will be added to the central energy plant to help regulate climate control in the building. The building's current furnace is the original one installed in 1938, DePontier said.

Elsewhere on campus, variable speed pumps that idle down to use less energy when pumping water for climate control will be installed.

With a new evaporative cooling tower, WSU will recirculate the water used in hydraulic pumps at the Wallace Hall Annex and the National Institute for Aviation Research. Currently, 6 million gallons of used water go down the drain, enough to fill WSU's water tower six times, according to DePontier.

The campus energy management system will be improved to include sensors to detect occupied and unoccupied spaces so temperatures can be adjusted accordingly. Pneumatic heating and cooling thermostats, valves and dampers will be replaced by new digitally controlled devices that can be monitored and controlled from a central location in the Physical Plant.

A pool cover will be installed at the Heskett Center indoor pool to combat water, heat and chemical evaporation. In just one day, the pool currently loses 2,000 gallons of water through evaporation, DePontier noted.



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