The steam power plant is working on technology from 1928 and may experience failures in productivity during this winter.
Despite the Renewable Energy Center being indefinitely postponed, Eastern must find a solution to avoid a power shortage.
The administration is in a reactive state of mind when it comes to Eastern’s aging steam plant now that the Renewable Energy Center is put on hold.
Gary Reed, director of facilities, planning and management, said the possibility of the steam plant shutting down during this winter is real.
He said if the coal boilers that heat and cool the campus break down (which is a legitimate concern, considering one boiler broke down last winter), the university would turn to the steam plant’s natural gas boilers.
There is a glaring problem with the administration’s plan. The gas boilers date back to 1969. The steam plant itself is operating on 1928 technology.
With the Renewable Energy Center on hold indefinitely, the university has quite a predicament.
“I’m a bit nervous, and I think that’s the basis of the (Renewable Energy Center) project’s criticality is my nervousness with the mechanics and the reliability of the existing plant,” Reed said.
The administration should be beyond nervousness. The administration should be living in fear.
The coal boilers have proven to be unreliable. The age of the natural gas boilers doesn’t boast confidence when it comes to reliability either.
The reactive state of mind is a fine mentality to take, but what the administration needs to do is practice urgency.
The Renewable Energy Center project needs to be re-enacted as quickly as possible. If the economy won’t support such a large project ($40 million to be exact), then the project needs to be simplified. If the administration is truly concerned about the residents in the area, the administration needs to consult them about location of the new center before forming a group that will address the Campus Master Plan.
Reed said the real issue with the steam plant is whether or not it can continue to generate steam.
That is a concern, but Jeff Cooley, vice president for business affairs, spoke more bluntly to the truth in January when Eastern had a shot at capital money for a new energy plant.
“It’s not a matter of if the plant will cease to function; it is a matter of when,” he said.
Urgency has never been so prevalent for this administration. Let’s hope they will react and change their state of mind.