MCCC’s outdated boilers put to rest

MCCC’s old boiler system was installed in 1978 and is too outdated to keep up with the colleges needs.
Photo by Eugene Kutz

MCCC plans to install a geothermal energy system to replace the college’s aging boilers.

Jack Burns, MCCC’s director of Campus Planning & Facilities, said the college will save money and use less energy by upgrading its infrastructure to geothermal heating and cooling.

The college’s heating and air conditioning system has been struggling for years.

Burns’ predecessor had been looking into geothermal, and when he was hired he was told to investigate the potential.

“We did a lot of research for it,” Burns said. “We didn’t want to just jump into it before weighing everything out.”

Five different companies were considered and their qualifications compared, Burns said.

He said he also talked to several of his peers at universities and colleges in the area that have upgraded to geothermal. Ameresco, one of the largest energy service companies in North America, offered a free audit to see if MCCC was a good candidate for geothermal.

The college is working on the design stage with Ameresco now; if all continues as planned, construction will begin by the end of April, Burns said.

Through the year, temperatures above ground fluctuate, but a few feet below ground the air is a more constant temperature. This temperature will be the one that needs to be heated or cooled, so in the extremes of the seasons less energy is needed.

Many recently built homes are using geothermal systems, and they now are being implemented in commercial facilities. Burns said that UM and MSU have some of their buildings running on this efficient system, but that MCCC will be one of the first community colleges that will be primarily geothermal-based.

“It’ll be good that we’re helping to lead that kind of movement in the country,” he said.

La-Z-Boy’s new world headquarters in Monroe uses a geothermal system, and the college uses geothermal to heat and cool the new Career Technology Center.

The efficiency savings from the geothermal system will pay for the majority of the construction, which will be financed over 20 years, Burns said.

“The board will still probably have to approve some borrowing for it, but we’re at the point with the current systems that we had to,” Burns said.

The college also is replacing all interior and exterior light fixtures on campus with LED bulbs, which will pay for themselves in 10 years, Burns said.

The campus was suffering during the heat of the summer last year, Burns said, adding that it has been expensive to keep the college cool with the current infrastructure.

“It’s not like we’re trading in a Hummer for a new Hummer; it’s more like we’re getting a Prius,” Burns said.

The savings will be significant, but it will take time to cover all the costs for the new infrastructure, Burns said.

At current projections, finances will rebalance to where they are now.

“We will continue to budget how we would normally,” Burns said. “And then the equipment will eventually help pay for itself.”

The current air conditioning system, which was installed in 1978, had its final run last summer and will be permanently retired when the new system is in place.

This summer a portable chiller will fill in. It will sit behind the maintenance building and pipe cool air into the system.

The goal is to have the new heating ready to go by this fall and the cooling done by the following summer.

Burns will be on President Kojo Quartey’s TV show in early spring to talk about plans for the new geothermal system.