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SDSU wins City of Brookings Mayor's Award for Sustainability

Solar panels help reduce SDSU's energy consumption, according to Barry Mielke
Installation of solar panels on the athletic department's practice facility is just one of the ways South Dakota State University has reduced its energy consumption, according to Barry Mielke, director of energy systems for Facilities and Services. SDSU will receive the City of Brookings 2019 Mayor’s Award for Sustainability in the environmental resilience category Sept. 26 at the McCrory Gardens Education and Visitor Center.

If South Dakota State University’s energy consumption had stayed the same on a per square foot basis in the past decade, the university would be spending $1 million more annually due to the recent building projects.

However, due to more efficient chiller plants, boiler plants, ventilation systems, lighting upgrades and solar panels, South Dakota State is keeping its energy costs in check.

Those efforts were recognized with the City of Brookings 2019 Mayor’s Award for Sustainability in the environmental resilience category. This honor recognizes excellence in sustainable practices demonstrated by local businesses, organizations and individuals while promoting a culture of resiliency and the category focuses on environmental infrastructure, conservation or resource management. Award winners embrace and promote an approach to business and daily living that balances environmental responsibility, economic prosperity and community equity. The award will be received Sept. 26 at the McCrory Gardens Education and Visitor Center.

One building that opened in 2018, the athletic department’s practice facility south of Frost Arena, has solar panels. Plans for projects under construction—the Raven Precision Agriculture Center and American Indian Student Center—have solar panels.

And more facilities could see solar panels, according to Barry Mielke, director of energy systems for SDSU Facilities and Services.

“We have done the analysis and see it makes financial sense. There is the potential that as we re-roof facilities, we will look at adding solar panels,” Mielke said.

In addition to generating its own energy, the university has made significant steps to reducing consumption. The conversion to LED lighting and upgrading parking lot lighting has been a major step as has the North and Central Chiller Plants.

The North Chiller Plant, which has received several awards, recently added three 750-ton chillers while the Central Chiller Plant added a fifth 525-ton chiller.

“These moves have given us additional capacity to connect buildings when their equipment fails,” Mielke said.

As changes take place in how buildings are heated and cooled, technology updates are needed. This summer, HVAC improvements and digital controls were installed in Wagner Hall and the Edgar S. McFadden Biostress Building.

“The controls allow remote monitoring, setbacks for energy savings and provide better occupant comfort,” Mielke said. “We can pull up displays and see what’s going on in our buildings.

“Throughout campus, we have 70,000 equipment control points to monitor or have the ability to look at,” he continued. “We can tell a space will be uncomfortable before a resident can. While we still need to send someone over to troubleshoot, we can know a more precise location to review. As we add more meters on our utilities, we can look at why building X uses more energy than Y and make improvements to the system. If you don’t measure, you can’t control usage.”

Other efforts include fixing water leaks in various tunnels, insulation, preheating air and using existing water temperatures.