Energy Use at Appalachian Reduced Nearly 30% Since 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2012

From fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2012, Appalachian State University reduced energy consumption by 29.3%. In doing so, the university is ahead of schedule for meeting a target for state agencies, set by a 2007 law, which requires a 30% reduction by 2015 (from a 2004 baseline year). This impressive reduction in energy use has been achieved even though gross square footage on campus has increased by around 900,000 gsf.

Leading the effort to reduce energy consumption has been Jerry Marshall, University Energy Manager, who came to Appalachian in 2007. This success has been achieved with the support of Chancellor Ken Peacock, Interim Vice-Chancellor for Business Affairs, Greg Lovins, and with guidance from Physical Plant Director, Michael O'Connor.

The standard measure that is used by the State Energy Office for measuring energy efficiency is BTUs per square foot (BTU/Ft2). In fiscal year 2007, BTU/Ft2 consumed at ASU were over 154,201. In fiscal year 2012, they totaled 109,114.

Over the past fiscal year alone, according to Patrick Richardson, Energy Analyst with Marshall's team, the reduction in energy consumption at ASU, due to optimizing the HVAC systems and improving lighting, equals the amount of electricity produced by burning 2,384,940 pounds of coal in a coal-fired plant.

How was this energy reduction achieved? First, Marshall's office secured $600,000 in grant money for energy conservation projects. Second, ASU hired an outside vendor, Pepco Energy Services, which specializes in identifying energy saving steps. Why use an outside vendor? Marshall says, "If you don't know what to do to reach a 30% goal, or you know but don't have manpower to carry it out, or you don't have any money to make it happen, then you need a contract."

Marshall points out that the state did not provide money to achieve the mandated reductions, so a contract works in Appalachian's favor because the contractor is paid through financial savings generated by energy reductions—and these savings are guaranteed by the contractor. In other words, the vendor is not paid unless the savings are achieved.

Some of the energy saving steps, which have been taken, include:

  • LED lighting has been installed at numerous places on campus. This replaced less efficient incandescent lighting.
  • Variable speed drives have been installed, which reduce energy consumption by slowing down fans in handler units and in other equipment.
  • Cool, outside air is being used to draw down building temperatures. This reduces mechanical cooling.
  • Occupancy/HVAC scheduling has been put into place. Formerly, heating or cooling in academic buildings ran 24/7 and kept temperatures 70-72 year-round. Now, on weekdays from midnight to 6:00 a.m., and on weekends the temperatures are maintained at 65 degrees in winter and 80 degrees in warmer weather.
  • The first contract with Pepco resulted in 15 buildings being fitted with new climate controls. (A potential second contract would provide these controls to 27 additional buildings.)

Some of the results of energy reduction include:

  • The carbon footprint of Appalachian State University has decreased.
  • According to Marshall's calculations, the contract with Pepco Energy Services has already been paid by energy cost savings.
  • Appalachian has avoided significant energy costs that the university would have incurred if the energy reduction steps had not been put into place--a total of $9,648,559 from fiscal year 2007 through 2012.

What's next? Numerous, additional energy-saving action steps include:

  • Increasing the use of solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, and other renewable energy resources,
  • Retrofitting 900 post lamps with LED lighting,
  • Improving building occupancy/HVAC scheduling, such as interfacing the student union's reservation software with the Physical Plant's software regulating heat and air.

Attempting to meet the state mandate for lower energy consumption, Appalachian has nearly achieved a 30% reduction long before the state deadline. We might say that the future looks much brighter even while using less electricity.