Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Several months ago, John Lakey, member of the Executive Committee of UNK’s Emergency Operations Team (EOT), was attending a meeting with representatives of the EOTs, NU-wide, when during a break from the formal meetings, Lakey overheard someone from UNMC asking another meeting attendee if his campus had a need for a generator. Upon hearing the latter’s decline, and with the massive power challenges of the vast ice storm from just a few months prior, still freshly-freezing on Lakey’s mind, he did not hesitate to pipe-in to his colleagues, “UNK certainly could use such an item!”
Thus, the strengthening of UNK’s preparation program for certain emergency conditions. Lakey’s next question to his UNMC benefactor was, “Is this something you’ll just put on a truck and get to us when a situation arises in which we need a generator?”
Well, no, not exactly. At the capacity of 750 kw, and a value of $250,000, this large, low-hour generator could only be a one-time delivery and a permanent gift!
This chance conversation of Lakey’s occurred around the same time that Lee McQueen, UNK’s director of facilities, was planning with engineers the design of the new Central Utility Plant (CUP). All parties involved were happy to amend their plans to accommodate this generous and muchneeded gift.
Ironically, the generator turns out to be a latent benefit to UNK from preparations of another “would-be” emergency. Prior to the Year 2000, UNMC prudently decided to purchase additional generators in anticipation of possible emergency conditions from the Y2K situation. It ended up that the need for a second generator was not necessary at UNMC, so they offered it to its sister campuses. “In our EOT efforts,” Lakey says, “we’ve always talked about sharing equipment when we need to, and we have on a smaller scale, several times already. A gesture of this capacity, however, I believe, is a first, and it’s worked out wonderfully. We are very grateful to our colleagues at UNMC.”
McQueen explains that this unexpected addition to the CUP will give significant bonus support to the campus’ HVAC system. “During the ice storm a few years ago, our power ration was only half of our baseload power demand. Output from this generator is also about half of our baseload. In other words, it can power boilers in the plant so we can use remaining available power to for buildings, to keep them from freezing during any future period in which we have a loss of power.”
The only costs incurred by UNK in receiving this generator were those to move the giant piece of machinery from Omaha to Kearney. Additionally, the tradeoff costs allowed UNK to purchase and install more feet of tunnel in last semester’s comprehensive upgrade of the campus-wide steam piping system. “These soft savings are worth noting,”McQueen sighs. “With this new generator, we now have far less to contend with in rationed-power situations.” He sufficiently concludes, “This entire event is another great example of the pluses of being part of the NU system.”