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Geothermal projects highlight PSU sustainability efforts

August 15, 2011 12:00AM

President Steve Scott talks about new geothermal projects on campus.

PSU President Steve Scott used a geothermal heating and cooling project now under construction as an opportunity Tuesday to highlight the university's ongoing efforts to reduce energy consumption, save money and become a more sustainable campus.

"It's been nearly a year since we formally adopted environmental sustainability as one of the university's six strategic goals," Scott said. "This is now a lens through which we view all projects and an essential part of our character."

The president said the installation of two new geothermal heating and cooling systems for the McPherson Nurse Education Building and Timmons Chapel represent the first phase of a $4.5 million energy savings plan.

"Through this plan, we will undertake a multi-year effort to reduce waste, maximize energy savings and educate our students, faculty and staff about best energy practices," the president said.

The geothermal projects, which cost about $600,000, were made possible through a $250,000 Department of Energy grant. At McPherson Hall this week, workers are finishing up the last of 18, 400-foot deep holes that will accommodate pipes through which fluid will flow. Geothermal systems take advantage of the constant temperature of the Earth at that depth to aid in heating or cooling buildings according to the season.

The geothermal projects are the first steps in a $4.5 million energy savings plan that the president described as "a multi-year effort to reduce waste, maximize energy savings, and educate our students, faculty and staff about best energy practices."

Scott said the energy savings plan is not just good for the environment, but also makes good economic sense.

"The savings in utility costs alone are expected to cover the initial investment of $4.5 million within 13 years," Scott said. "It's another example of how proper planning and institutional commitment can deliver outcomes that are both economically responsible and environmentally sustainable."

The new energy plan includes replacing inefficient boilers and a complete lighting upgrade across campus. This summer, PSU Physical Plant staff will replace lighting in classrooms and offices and along sidewalks and building exteriors with high-efficiency lighting systems.

"Perhaps the best part of this project is that it uses technology that is readily available, and capable of being used in residential homes," Scott said. "Many of the energy saving techniques in this plan can be used in your homes and businesses."

Scott said the university's past sustainability efforts and those on the drawing board are proof of that efforts to protect the environment and the requirement to manage finances carefully are compatible.

"We can be good stewards of the environment and be good stewards of state funding and tuition dollars at the same time," Scott said. "I think we have an obligation to do both.  The project behind me and the overall energy savings plan we've announced this morning offer a clear opportunity to do just that."

©2011 Pittsburg State University