Regents approve electrical upgrades
The University of Alaska Board of Regents this week approved the next phase of critical electrical upgrades at the Fairbanks campus--an ongoing project that improves a number of issues with the 50-year-old distribution system. The project’s second phase, at $24.2 million, is funded by a mixture of previously approved bonding as well as deferred maintenance money Gov. Sean Parnell has included in his FY13 capital budget. The project includes improvements to the voltage distribution system at UAF such as replacing aged transformers, installing a high-voltage cable and underground storage to house new high-voltage switches. All of the improvements will be compatible with a replacement heat and power plant in the future. The first phase, which is nearing completion, included moving the main electrical switching gear out of the heat and power plant, upgrading the connection to the electrical grid and increasing the system’s voltage and distribution capacity. All of the changes follow a plan mapped out after a near failure of the plant in the late 1990s, which made it clear the electrical switches must be moved out of the main building in the event of a steam leak. The board also approved a certificate in baking and pastry arts, a reconfiguration of an earlier certificate in culinary arts that featured one of three concentrations: culinary arts, baking and pastry and cooking. The UAF faculty recommended eliminating the concentrations, leaving a single certificate in culinary arts. A student now interested in such skills will be able to earn a certificate in either culinary arts or baking and pastry. The training earned through the certificate program would apply directly toward a two-year associate degree if the student desires to continue with their education. Board members attended a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday evening to celebrate recently completed test labs for UAF’s Alaska Center for Energy and Power. ACEP is a four-year old entity that has already secured $18 million in externally funded energy research projects involving numerous private and public partners across the state. The new facility, located next to the heat and power plant, houses three established test beds for energy projects, including a hybrid application laboratory, a diesel engine test lab and a hydrokinetic energy research bay. Speakers at the ceremony included Chancellor Brian Rogers, Board Chair Pat Jacobson of Kodiak, Sen. Lesil McGuire of Anchorage, Doug Johnson of Ocean Renewable Power Co., David Lockard of the Alaska Energy Authority and ACEP Director Gwen Holdmann. The event was well attended by numerous UA researchers, elected officials, business owners and students—an indication of the high interest in collaborative energy research. In other business, board members elected Regent Carl Marrs of Anchorage as the new vice-chair of the board, following the resignation of Regent Bob Martin of Juneau due to health reasons. Martin, a UAF alumnus, was beginning the last year of his eight-year term on the board. He recently notified the governor and UA officials that he feels he must step down. Gov. Parnell will appoint a new regent to fill out Martin’s term. Many regents spoke highly of Martin’s contributions to the University of Alaska, the Southeast Alaska region and the state as a whole. Another agenda item included resolutions of appreciation for two longtime UA System staffers, Pat Ivey and Jeannie Phillips. Ivey is retiring after more than 36 years and Phillips has moved to a part-time position at UAF after 21 years at the System Office.