SPRINGFIELD — The University of Illinois will invest millions into boosting the energy efficiency of its facilities and is hiring a firm to develop a plan for how it can meet climate-related goals, such as using more renewable fuels to power the Urbana campus.
Meeting in Springfield on Friday, the UI Board of Trustees approved an $11.5 million project to update the Oak Street Chiller Plant, which cools buildings on campus, with more energy-efficient equipment.
The $21 million plant was built in 2002 and became operational in 2004. Its capacity was expanded in 2009 to serve the nearby petascale supercomputing building and other parts of campus.
The latest project calls for installing two high-efficiency electric drive chillers, cooling towers and support equipment.
The UI anticipates a nine-year payback for the project, according to Mike Bass, the UI's senior associate vice president.
The UI chose Siemens Industry of Mount Prospect to oversee the project and was able to select the company following a set of guidelines outlined in the Illinois Public University Energy Conservation Act. According to that legislation, the university can work with an energy services company like Siemens, provided the energy or operational costs savings meet or exceed the costs of the energy conservation measures within 20 years. The energy company will reimburse the public university for any shortfall of guaranteed energy savings projected in the project, according to the legislation.
The improvements to the chillers "will allow us to become more energy efficient as we gain more capacity," said Jack Dempsey, executive director of Facilities & Services.
In related action, trustees agreed to pay a Champaign firm nearly $1 million to come up with a utilities master plan that will specifically address how the campus will power itself in the years ahead.
"All this is driven to help determine what the plant will look like in 2020, in 2030," said Dempsey, referring to Abbott Power Plant.
The aim is to become "more efficient and environmentally friendly, but still remain reliable and cost-effective," Dempsey said.
In recent years, university officials approved a "climate action plan" that outlines a number of specific goals for the campus. Among those goals: discontinuing the use of conventional coal by 2017, and having 5 percent of total energy use from renewable sources by 2015.
"This will be a comprehensive plan to help us with our production and distribution purchases," Dempsey said. "We want to make sure we have a good, solid, long-range plan," he said.
The eventual document, which is expected to take a year to create, will include a implementation plan with phasing and different timelines and construction costs.
The contract, worth $971,000, is with Affiliated Engineers of Champaign.
In other board action:
Assembly Hall renovation moves forward. Trustees approved a $2.2 million contract with AECOM, the architectural and engineering firm recommended to create a schematic design of a renovated Assembly Hall. That design can be used for fundraising efforts. Once 80 percent of the project is funded, university officials are expected to seek approval for the project itself, which is to be privately funded.
Natural History Building project also given the green light. Trustees also approved a $70 million budget for an extensive renovation of the Natural History Building, 1301 W. Green St., home to the School of Earth, Society, and Environment and the School of Integrative Biology, both in the UI's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Appointments made. Susan Kies was appointed board secretary, replacing Michele Thompson, who is retiring. Trustees also OK'd the appointment of Robert Easter as interim vice chancellor for research, replacing Ravi Iyer, who is returning to his faculty position. Easter was most recently the interim chancellor for the Urbana campus.