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News Release

Sept. 8, 2023

Regents approve proposal to begin $105 million energy infrastructure modernization project

Northwest Missouri State University’s Board of Regents on Thursday gave its approval to institutional leaders to embark on a project that will transform the Maryville campus’s energy infrastructure, making it the largest capital project request in the University’s history.

The Board’s approval of the proposed energy infrastructure modernization project authorizes Northwest President Dr. Lance Tatum and Vice President of Finance and Administration Stacy Carrick to enter into contracts with selected bidders for a total project cost not exceeding $105 million.

Northwest is partnering with engineering firm IMEG Corp. to develop design documents for the upgraded central plant and energy distribution systems and expects the project will take approximately two to three years to complete.

“It’s really positive in the long run for us from an efficiency perspective as the planned upgrades and modernized equipment will generate energy and operational savings that allow Northwest to invest in our aging infrastructure,” Carrick said.

Presenting the proposal to the Board, Carrick said the project objective is to ensure safe, adequate, reliable and cost-effective operations in delivering heating and cooling to campus facilities on a more sustainable, long-term basis.

The multi-year plan includes the replacement of chillers and cooling towers in the University’s central cooling plant and decentralizing its heating infrastructure by installing high-efficiency water boilers in buildings to drive utility efficiencies and flexibility.

Northwest plans to maximize state matching funds to help finance the energy infrastructure modernization project. In addition to $5 million in state-appropriated funds for the University in FY23, Northwest plans to direct $25 million in state funds appropriated for FY24 and another $25 million the University has requested for FY25 to the project. The two $25 million appropriations are matching grants, meaning Northwest must secure an additional $50 million to receive the state funding and meet the project’s $105 million total cost. To do that, Carrick said, the University has earmarked $30 million for the project, and it anticipates borrowing the remaining $20 million.

The project emanates from the University’s Campus Master Plan, which was completed in 2016 and identified a need to address deferred maintenance, including the campus’s heating and cooling infrastructure that provides steam heating and hot water to about 75 percent, or 1.8 million square feet, of Northwest facilities. The critical utility infrastructure also includes HVAC building systems, electric distribution, domestic water, sanitary sewer and stormwater management.

Increasingly, the antiquated centralized heating and cooling plant, as well as the utility infrastructure, are becoming problematic for Northwest. Campus disruptions are occurring more frequently as a result of steam pipe leaks, breakdowns and component failures.

Currently, Northwest’s centralized heating plant provides steam heat to campus buildings with three natural gas boilers that were installed during the 1960s and are 27 to 33 years past their expected useful life. Two alternative fuel boilers in Northwest’s central heating plant are inoperable and beyond repair. Further, the boiler controls are antiquated electro-mechanical systems with limited capabilities.

Steam generated from the boilers is distributed to the buildings through 18,000 linear feet of piping in underground tunnels, which also have sustained substantial deterioration.

The centralized cooling plant consists of three chillers and cooling towers, two of which have exceeded their useful life.

Simultaneously, Carrick reported to Regents that progress is ongoing in Northwest’s efforts to reduce energy consumption. By converting standard lighting to LED technology and installing low-flow restroom fixtures among other high-efficiency systems in combination with the energy infrastructure modernization project, the University expects to realize increased energy efficiencies and use its utility cost savings as part of its funding strategy for energy infrastructure upgrades. Additionally, the upgrades will put Northwest on a path toward carbon neutrality.

A brief history of Northwest’s energy infrastructure

Thursday’s Board action marks the beginning of a new era in how Northwest fulfills its energy needs and a shift from the alternative energy fuels program it initiated decades ago.

During a meeting exactly 117 years earlier, amid planning for the then-year-old institution, Regents considered plans and specifications presented by an architect to construct its heating and powerhouse, in addition to the Administration Building.

From Northwest’s start, the powerhouse, located east of the Administration Building has remained an essential part of the campus infrastructure. The original structure was completed around 1910 and has been reconstructed, known today as the John C. Redden Jr. Power Plant, to support campus expansion and the University’s evolving energy needs. The facility is connected by a two-mile network of utility tunnels throughout the campus that carry steam as well as HVAC-chilled water to more than 30 buildings.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s with the cost of fossil fuels skyrocketing, Northwest began implementing a successful alternative energy program. In 1983, Northwest began burning wood chips generated from manufacturing processes and created 69 percent of the power needed to heat the campus.

In 1993, the University began converting paper trash into burnable pellets. A few years later, animal waste generated at the University’s R.T. Wright Farm also was converted into pellets and added to the institution’s mix of alternative fuels, meeting as much as 90 percent of the campus’s energy needs. During a 35-year period, Northwest realized an estimated $16 million in savings as a result of its alternative energy program, compared to purchasing natural gas and oil.

Last spring, however, Northwest discontinued its use of alternative fuels due to its aging boilers and components.

In other Board business

In other business Thursday, the Board approved the hiring of University Police Officer Michael Logan, per Missouri Revised Statue 174.700 and reviewed appropriations requests Northwest submitted to the state for fiscal year 2025.

During a work session prior to its regular meeting, Regents heard a presentation about the state of mental health on the Northwest campus, the results of a compensation study conducted for the University in partnership with Evergreen Solutions, and a review of enrollment data captured on the first day of the fall semester.

Regarding its enrollment, Northwest announced a 4.6-percent rise in its total enrollment on its first day of the fall classes and a total headcount of 8,071 students, marking a sixth consecutive year of overall growth. With an official census count coming Sept. 18, Northwest expects its enrollment total to increase, and Tatum outlined for Regents the University’s desire to balance its enrollment portfolio.

“The conversation about recruitment and enrollment never stops,” Tatum said. “It’s constantly a part of what we talk about at the institution – from how we present materials to prospective students, what that looks like, the processes that occur within marketing, our brand, how we admit students, how we register students, how we retain students to how we matriculate students through the process. The goal for us is to recruit them to the University and then get them to graduation, and this University does that very well.” 

The Board of Regents is responsible for sound resource management of the University and determining general, educational and financial policies.


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215