College seeks to save money through energy efficiency

By Farhin Lilywala

Each month, every establishment, without fail, receives one bill above all others: the electricity bill. The college is no exception.

It is expected the college spends a good chunk of money on energy, as when you walk into any room on campus, the lights are bright and shining. In 2008, Michael Rae, project manager for sustainability, says the college had a study done to make sure that everything energy related was up to standard, and it highlighted many areas of improvement for the college.

“The college asked the board for a certain amount of money and they allotted us $700,000 to go towards energy efficiency measures,” Rae said.

It took the college and the energy efficiency team about two years to implement most of the changes suggested by the study, such as new and better motors for the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC), which is the biggest energy user on campus. The second major change implemented was with lighting upgrades, the second biggest energy user on campus, switching from a bigger V12 to a smaller V8 light bulb. The other major change was reducing plug load, which is anything plugged into an outlet.

Due to the changes made, the college is now saving several thousands of dollars, according to Ryan Wing, senior sustainability analyst.

“Out of the $700,000 the board appropriated for energy efficiency, $565,000 went to energy measures,” Wing said. “These measures now save the college over $100,000 per year. In about five years, with rising energy rates, the college will be paid back. The other $135,000 went to water efficiency, which has a 12- year payback, just because water is so cheap around here.”

The energy efficiency team is currently working on an energy dashboard, whose infrastructure and user interface, according to Wing, was built by a team of three students from the capstone course, that requires them to learn independently about a technology they know nothing about. In order for this dashboard to have a full effect, a meter will be placed on each building on campus which will then monitor how much energy is being used.

“That still needs some tweaking,” Wing said. “So we are working with campus information services to get the data points all properly connected so the data can be viewed live. Energy will then be viewed in real time.”

Questions remain: did these measures work? And will they be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars?

“Last fiscal year,so that is last July to this past June, the college spent more than $2.5 million on electricity,” Wing said. “The college has actually done a pretty good job of increasing energy efficiency, but because of the rising rates, the bill continues to increase. In 2008, we paid $2 million, so it has gone up about $550,000, and in 2005, the bill was $1.4 million.”

The amount that the college pays for each kilowatt has increased as well, according to Rae.   “We were paying five cents per kilowatt, and now we are paying about 8.4 [cents per] kilowatts,” Rae said.

Although Julia Lamartina, student and worker at Encore! Espresso, believes the system could be improved, she hasn’t seen the situation as a problem.

“It gets pretty cold behind the counter, and higher floors seem to be cooler, but I’ve been pretty comfortable this year,” Lamartina said.

The energy efficiency team is now working on recalibrating HVAC units to get them working the way they are supposed to be working.

The team is also working on a new project that will severely help the cause of energy efficiency.

“The program that will attack energy efficiency is still being developed,” Rae said. “So we can’t exactly divulge anything about that because it is still under development and we are currently waiting for approval.”

Contact Farhin Lilywala, news editor, 

The Campus Ledger

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