Keeping WSU cool -- and hot

3:20:05 PM CDT - Thursday, September 07, 2006

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Some of the most critical pieces of WSU's new energy conservation plan are those that the WSU community will never see, but they'll certainly experience.

Since April, contractors with Custom Energy Services, an Overland Parks based company, have been working on a variety of projects aimed at helping WSU upgrade its facilities to reduce utility costs and conserve energy.

Woody DePontier
Photo by David Dinell
Woody DePontier, director of the Physical Plant, inspects a new boiler installed this summer in the central physical plant. Three new, more energy-efficient boilers will replace two aging boilers.
About 75 percent of that work has been done, according to Woody DePontier, director of the Physical Plant.

Some of the more critical pieces of the energy plan have included replacing the university's boilers and chillers in the central energy plant, which help heat and cool 27 buildings on campus.

With expected rising utility costs, WSU entered into a 15-year, $12.25 million contract with Custom Energy Services. Instead of facing an increase of $1 million in energy costs, WSU is guaranteed to save $1.1 million a year in utility costs under the contract.

WSU is reportedly the only state agency in the state's Facility Conservation Improvement Program that will use only its energy savings to pay for the contract, rather than supplementing the contract costs with funds meant for maintenance.

As DePontier shows a visitor some of the new piping and more energy-efficient centrifugal chillers that help cool campus buildings, he explains that the chillers only had to run at about 60 to 70 percent capacity during 110-plus degree days this summer thanks to the cooling tower improvements, compared to 100 percent capacity during hot spells of summers past.

Across from the chillers in the physical plant near the southeast corner of the campus, workers were welding and doing other work to hook up one of three new boilers that replaced ones that were more than three decades old. One of the new boilers would be fired up at the end of August, with the others coming online later on.

Aura Roseberry
Photo by David Dinell
Academic affairs and research administrative assistant Aura Rosenberry sits under exposed ductwork in her Morrison Hall office. The building will eventually be connected to the university’s central energy plant to more efficiently heat and cool the building, which was still heated by its 1938 original furnace.
At numerous other buildings, work continues. In Morrison Hall, for example, office workers sit under torn-up ceilings that expose the new ductwork being installed in preparation of hooking the building up to the university's central energy plant. The building has been heated until now by its original 1938 furnace.

One of the more noticeable and most inconvenient upgrades – the replacement of about 26,000 fluorescent light fixtures – is nearly complete, according to DePontier.

Work will continue elsewhere on campus, but mainly in mechanical rooms and hallways, DePontier said, as the environmental systems are upgraded.

The new dry cooling system that will recirculate the water used in hydraulic pumps at Wallace Hall Annex and the National Institute for Aviation Research still needs to be installed. Currently, 6 million gallons of used water go down the drain, enough to fill WSU's water tower six times.

Most of the work has gone smoothly, DePontier said, with the exception of unseasonably high temperatures setting in at the same time the cooling towers were upgraded in April.

All the work is expected to be completed around the beginning of next year.

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