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Innovative bond plan pays for utility upgrade

Project to include conservation measures

-Staff and Wire Report

UNM will issue a bond package worth $60 million to upgrade, improve and renovate the utilities infrastructure.

The State Board of Finance and the Commission on Higher Education recently approved the financing measure. The financing will come in the form of University system revenue bonds, which will be retired through money saved from a more efficient and reliable utilities system.

“It is critically important to replace the World War II-era utility equipment and systems so that proper reliable heating, cooling, and electrical service can be provided now, and in the future, to the health care facilities, students, faculty, staff, and research activities on the campus,” Jeff Easton said in a press release. Easton is the chief executive officer of Lobo Energy, Inc., which was created by UNM.

Three major components comprise the multi-year utility project — energy conservation measures, chilled water modifications and the renovation of Ford Utilities Center. The five-year project will address a failing utility infrastructure, which has suffered from insufficient capital investment over the years coupled with a higher demand for energy supplies.

The University has been pursuing a viable solution to its infrastructure burden since 1993.

“It’s been a long road to get to this point, but now, we’re off and running,” said Mary Vosevich, director of the Physical Plant. “One of the main goals of the project is better utility efficiencies and reliability which will lower the cost of utility usage. In turn, we will use the utility savings to retire the bonds and pay for the project.”

The first phase of the project, which will begin this summer, includes energy conservation measures consisting of four projects including new lighting, building chilled water pumping modifications, building ventilation modifications, and installing energy management control systems.

Chilled water modifications comprise the second phase of the project, which includes a new chilled water plant at a proposed location south of Lomas Boulevard and west of Stanford Drive designed to meet the needs of both main and north campuses. After the new plant is in operation, the north chiller plant will be demolished to open up real estate on the north campus for the future development of the University Hospital’s master plan.

The third phase of the multi-year utilities infrastructure project includes the renovation of the Ford Utilities Center, which will include replacing all steam boilers and all chillers, and the installation of a co-generation plant, which will allow simultaneous production of electricity and steam from natural gas.

“Lobo Energy developed the business plan for the Physical Plant Department and will support the Physical Plant in the implementation of the business plan,” said Vosevich. “What we will be doing over the next five years is preparing the University for the future.”

The project recognizes the value of energy conservation and incorporates many savings measures into the project. Those conservation efforts will essentially help repay the bonds.

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“What we plan to do as we’re introducing energy conservation projects, is to have the University community support this project and to make them aware of energy conservation measures,” Vosevich said. “We want to heighten everyone’s awareness toward energy conservation.”

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