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Going Green While Saving Green: A Little Bit Means A Lot

University Business, Jun 2006

When it comes to finding individual ways to save energy-and consequently, money-Florida State University takes a leadership role. The Tallahassee campus's 50 top fuel-consuming buildings have been treated to $8 million worth of energy-smart upgrades in their lighting, HVAC systems, and windows. Specifically:

Insulated thermapane replacement windows replaced the old wooden ones that leaked 10 times more air.

High-pressure sodium lamps have supplanted incandescent bulbs and use only 30 percent of the energy.

Campus air-conditioning chillers are now cooled with readily available groundwater, a unique process that reduces fuel bills by 20 percent.

The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory rescheduled experiments with some of the world's most powerful magnets to lower power consumption during peak usage periods.

Hundreds of lights at the school's Doak Campbell Stadium have been dark at least 12 hours a day. Even the blue-light security system scattered liberally across campus now boasts cheaper-burning bulbs that reduce their energy demands by as much as 80 percent.

Hundreds of labs in typically fuel-hungry science and College of Medicine facilities are scheduled to receive the latest in low-flow fume hoods, which use half the air of older models.

When FSU launched its energy savings program with Johnson Controls in 1997, the company promised the changes would reduce utility bills by $8.5 million within a decade. But by 2005, the calculators showed that the university was $2 million ahead of the original ambitious schedule. The latest round-occupancy sensors in empty classrooms to turn off lights and idle computer monitors, coupled with new technology lighting and campus steam retrofits-should add yet another $1 million to the savings chest.

Best of all, Florida State's success is far from a fluke. Take a look at how other universities are finding that small changes can make a big impact.

These ongoing reports examine energy cost and consumption patterns on campus. A 2004 report showed administrators certain thermostat areas where usage was too liberal, so they added more thermostat controls for improved efficiency. The analysis also prompted OCU's decision to take over responsibility of its own transformers, which led to a 30 percent reduction in energy costs.

These solutions use fuel combustion to produce thermal energy. Colby's combined heat and power (CHP) system has put $150,000 in energy costs back in the pockets of this Maine school's operational budget.

Action or Product: Electric cars

Institution: Reed College (Ore.)

Provider: [various manufacturers]

Using vehicles that run off a rechargeable battery saves this Portland school an estimated $2,700 per vehicle per year. With 10 electric vehicles, that's a total of $325,000 across the fleet's expected lifetime. This doesn't take the lower sticker price into account: The current electric pickup trucks cost $8,000 each compared to their $14,500 gas-drinking buddies.

This type of facility allows a campus to purchase electricity directly from an energy provider. Baylor reports an electric savings of $600,000 annually-and because this route reduces costs by 1 cent per kilowatt hour, future energy measures are poised to save still more.

Through this program, a school can overhaul its aging utility system at no upfront capital costs; retrofits are paid for by the energy savings guaranteed by the contract. In 2004, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity cited user EIU in a report as having the lowest energy cost per square foot among all public universities in that state. (In a similar program with Chevron Energy Solutions, Saint Mary's College of California's retrofit will save it $250,000 per year in lower utility bills.)

This technology uses a constant 55-degree liquid to either cool the air in the summer or warm up frigid air before adding conventional heating methods in winter. MUM officials knew this would be more costly to initially install but anticipate a savings when played out over a 20-year life cycle.

The 278 energy-efficient laundry room washers installed at AU hold 32 percent more clothes than the old machines. This saves 18 gallons of water per load or 2 million gallons per year-enough water to fulfill the drinking needs of the AU community for two years.

These controls allow managers to monitor dorm room temperatures, adjust temperatures from a computer screen, and track trends. At UMaine, the new system has dramatically cut down on service calls to the dormitory. Managers estimated they had received between 10 and 20 service calls a semester; spring 2005 saw only two calls. Utility bills also have decreased, and the results have led officials to try to have the dorm recognized as a green building.

This process automatically dims the overhead lights as the ambient natural light increases. UNC at Charlotte measured a 50 percent reduction in lighting energy used at its Atkins Library.

Schools can drastically reduce radiant heat gain with these ceilings. Installed at UMass's practice ice rink in fall '04, the ceiling has allowed refrigeration compressor run time to be reduced by at least 30 percent.

These lights use LED bulbs, are powered by solar energy, and are outfitted with motion detectors. Babson installed them in October 2005 to illuminate a pathway from the residence halls to its athletic fields; savings have not yet been calculated.

Converting sunlight directly to electricity is the idea with these systems. Students can monitor their real-time output at a kiosk. CU-Boulder officials estimate the photovoltaic panels will put $1,500 a year in electricity costs back in their pockets.

Software that shuts down computer monitors during nonuse will help out Tufts University, which estimates that if its students and faculty power down their computers one to five hours a day, the savings will amount to $90,000 in electricity costs per year. Energy Star estimates the savings at $55 per monitor.

Installed in steam lines, these devices can greatly reduce the oxygen levels in steam condensate, reducing boiler chemical requirements. Reed's facilities director, Townsend Angell, says it's difficult to quantify savings, but spirovents extend the life of its steam systems from a typical 30 to 50 years to indefinitely.

Automating water flow is the aim here. Assumption officials, who had them installed in 22 buildings in 2005, anticipate saving nearly three million gallons of water per year.

This energy-saving device is installed on beverage vending machines. With roughly 90 devices, Tufts has cut electricity costs from $381 to $189 per machine per year, for a total annual savings of $17,280.

This applied film blocks outside heat, so less energy is needed to cool a building. Stanford's Encina Hall, with 6,212 square feet of window film, has saved about $5,000 annually.

The wood-fired boiler at Colgate University burns about 80 tons per day of hardwood chips from tree waste and tree tops from logging sites in central New York. Considering it would take 5,000 gallons of oil to produce the same amount of steam that the facility creates, its savings for 2005 were likely more than $475,000.


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