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December 01, 2022

SIU Carbondale to investigate heating, cooling projects aimed at improving sustainability

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Southern Illinois University Carbondale officials will investigate the feasibility of three projects that could improve sustainability and better heat and cool campus buildings, following today’s (Dec. 1) vote by the SIU Board of Trustees.

The proposed projects are:

  • Two new natural gas fired boilers to replace a 30-year-old gas boiler and environmental retrofits to reduce emissions from a 27-year-old coal-fired boiler. The boilers, whose average lifespan is 15-25 years, supply steam to heat and cool campus buildings.
  • A new electric chiller plant and up to five electric chillers to more efficiently and reliably air condition the campus. The new system would replace two 50-year-old steam-driven centrifugal chillers.
  • A distributed solar electric power plant and public electric vehicle charging stations. The goal is to have the solar power plant produce 10% of the main campus’ annual electricity needs and significantly reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions.

Preliminary estimates for all three projects range from $105 million to $120 million. Specific plans for implementation and financing, including possible state and federal grants; project and budget approval, and the awarding of contracts will require further board action. The projects are also subject to approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

“Researching these projects is part of our commitment to sustainability, one of five pillars of our strategic plan, Imagine 2030,” said Chancellor Austin A. Lane. “We are aiming to significantly reduce our use of coal and our carbon emissions and to do our part to preserve the environment.”

Susan Simmers, vice chancellor for administration and finance, said the projects, if implemented, could also help the campus realize significant savings in energy costs and provide more reliable and more efficient heating and cooling.

“Studying these projects is a responsible measure, environmentally and fiscally,” she said.

In related matters, the board approved:

  • Construction and naming of the SIU Credit Union Event Center at Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center. Funded by a $500,000 gift from the SIU Credit Union, the event center will serve as a trailhead, provide shelter and support, and offer a meeting area for school groups, trail user groups, or other SIU affiliated and public groups. It will have a pavilion, with a fireplace, restrooms, a small entertainment shelter, lighting and parking.
  • Replacement of the 2006 fire alarm system at Schneider Hall residential facility. The $1.5 million project is expected to be done in summer 2023.