SEMO hopes to flush out energy savings

Monday, July 1, 2002

Southeast Missouri State University is installing more efficient commodes and modified faucets in campus buildings as part of a $13.5 million energy savings project that covers everything from fluorescent light fixtures to the campus power plant.

Southeast's power plant hasn't generated electricity for the past two years. But thanks to equipment improvements and repairs, the coal-fueled plant is expected to start generating its own power again in August.

The goal is to cut back on budget-draining energy costs. The improvements now under way are expected to be completed by April, said Al Stoverink, director of facilities management at Southeast.

The plan could save the university $11.2 million in utility costs over the next decade and another $10 million-plus in the following decade, school officials say.

Southeast is paying for the project with bonds and plans to retire those bonds over 10 years, paying with money that would have been spent on energy.

The timing couldn't be better. Hampered by state budget cuts, Southeast is looking to cut its operating costs.

The Board of Regents in February approved a contract with Johnson Controls Inc. of St. Louis for the energy savings work. If yearly projected energy savings are not met, the company pays the difference on the bond payments.

Work includes replacing 687 toilets and modifying 1,660 faucets.

"The toilets are just being finished up," said Mark Wengler, project manager with Johnson Controls.

Officials were skeptical

School officials initially balked at the idea of putting in the new toilets. Stoverink said he and others worried that the new toilets, which use less water, would clog up and users would flush them twice to get them to work properly.

"We were extremely skeptical," Stoverink said.

But the water-conserving toilets worked well when tested in one of the residence halls last fall, Stoverink said. Based on that test, school officials decided to go ahead with replacing the toilets as part of the energy saving project.

Plumbing improvements, however, are just a small part of the project.

Nearly 30,000 light fixtures and florescent bulbs are being replaced with more efficient models. Besides saving money, the move has brightened hallways and classrooms.

Nearly 30 percent of the lighting improvements have been completed, Wengler said.

"The only complaints we've gotten is that it is too bright." he said. But others have welcomed the illumination.

About 4,500 sensors will be installed in campus offices, conference rooms, classrooms and possibly even some restrooms to automatically turn off lights when the rooms aren't in use.

43 percent from lights

Stoverink said lighting modifications will account for 43 percent of the energy cost savings. Another 37 percent in energy savings is expected to come from power plant improvements and the remaining 20 percent from various utility improvements.

The improvements include new water-chilling equipment on the south side of the campus used in air conditioning.

Other improvements include controls to better regulate heating and cooling in campus buildings.

Stoverink said generating electricity could save the university about $300,000 a year. Southeast currently spends over $1 million a year on electricity from AmerenUE, he said.

The university's power needs grew by 25 percent from 1997 to 2000, fueled in part by the growing number of computers on campus and new buildings, Stoverink said.

That's all the more reason for the school to be generating its own power and installing energy efficient equipment, he said.

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