Energy projects are one of the primary focus areas for operational sustainability because successful projects have clear, tangible results for reducing costs and greenhouse gas emissions, since we rely almost exclusively on purchased fossil fuels for electricity and steam. There are several categories of energy projects we focus on that are detailed below.
Lighting is one of our main electricity consumption areas on campus and has attracted a lot of attention for making improvements. Please read more about the different technologies we've implemented and the projects that saw those improvements, along with information on the annual cost savings realized from each project, as well as greenhouse gas emissions avoided.
Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting is an emerging technology with significant energy savings, longer life spans and lower maintenance needs compared to other commonly used lighting types. Despite their higher cost, their benefits make them ideal in a variety of lighting applications. UW-Whitewater has been a pioneer in the UW System for our use of LED technologies and plans to continue leadership in adopting this technology in lighting projects throughout campus.
While fluorescent lighting is the current standard in energy-efficient lighting, not all fluorescents are made equal. The availability of more efficient ballasts and bulbs has made existing fluorescent fixtures worth re-examining for further energy savings. In addition, high output fluorescent lights are now a to traditional high intensity discharge lighting in some applications, such as gymnasiums. Several of these fluorescent conversion projects have been completed or are in progress:
HVAC describes how the buildings are heated and cooled, but also considers how much fresh air circulation occurs. Many improvements to our building mechanical systems also provide electrical savings, but often we can realize even more energy efficiency by improving the steam and chilled water systems that provide our buildings' heating and cooling. Therefore, our HVAC improvements can often impact multiple energy sources and provide an even greater return on investment.
Replacing equipment with newer energy-efficient technology is a great way to modernize through scheduled replacements, but this equipment is truly effective if it is properly optimized by the professional staff of the Heating Plant. The constant optimization process allows us to operate the steam system at lower pressure to conserve energy and reduce steam leak loss. As our steam system ages, our staff also completes numerous repairs to leaking steam and condensate lines. Reducing academic building air handler operation to a rotating and reduced operating schedule during non-building hours helps reduce electrical costs. Being able to "dial down" buildings during non-business hours was preceded with a custodial shift change from three duty shifts to two. The corresponding nighttime cutbacks of HVAC demand contributed to a 17% reduction in energy consumption. Assessing and adjusting fume hood flow rates in science labs ensures the ventilation meets needs without being excessive. There is also ongoing inspection, testing, recalibrating, and resetting of academic building thermostats to state recommended temperature levels.
Energy efficiency improvements can be realized simply by more closely monitoring building systems performance and adjusting systems to run appropriate to occupancy levels. UW-Whitewater has made several improvements in monitoring and control capabilities to allow technicians to quickly respond to inefficiency and utilize automation to eliminate the neeed for constant human monitoring. Advanced metering and automation can assist even more with making sure some elements of human error are eliminated that might end up causing unnecessary energy use in unoccupied spaces. Our projects to improve building controls, as well as a few that are under investigation, can be found here.
Our campus has engaged in a process called performance contracting to upgrade building system components and controls in academic buildings. The Wisconsin Legislature recognized that energy conservation projects could be financed out of the savings generated by energy efficiency investments, and that the private sector can provide the service needed to complete such projects in a timely fashion. Wisconsin law, statute s. 16.858 Energy conservation audits and construction projects, allows all state agencies to utilize energy savings to make needed energy conservation improvements, paid for out of their existing utility budgets, through Energy Performance Contracts (EPC). Replacing existing energy consuming equipment or infrastructure with more efficient equipment and changes to operations or control strategies can reduce energy costs. The projected savings can be used to finance the improvements that will create the savings, without having to request an increase in an agency's appropriations to pay for that specific project. The Department of Administration, Division of State Facilities (DSF) issued this guidance document and established a process to hire an Energy Service Company (ESCO) from a list of approved Performance Contractors to assist agencies in utilizing the Performance Contracts for energy projects.
Building automation is handled primarily on our campus by Johnson Controls MetaSys extended architecture for regulation of campus HVAC system. This software also utilizes electronic energy metering for all campus buildings. This level of submetering and individual point control allows our staff to fine tune and balance the systems and have immediate feedback for points operating outside of their normal range. As technology continues to develop, we look to establish an interdependent system ("smart system") using CO2 sensors to stagger air handler operation to reduce peak electricity load.
Areas of consideration when focused on the building envelope include all aspects of the shell of a building, including roof, walls, and openings that are covered with windows or doors. Since many of our buildings are brick, there isn't a lot of opportunity for adding insulation, so we focus primarily on replacing old windows and doors with new, much more efficient, versions.
General Services Window Replacement (07L1R) - Existing single glaze windows, window frames, main entryway exterior doors, and door frames were thermally inefficient and drafty and would often accumulate a thick layer of frost on the inside during the winter months, so they were replaced with new Low-E, double glazed windows.
Center for Students with Disabilities Window Replacement (08D3D) - Replace 10 window units at 7'x9'6" and 6 window units at 7'x7' with new Low-E, doubled glazed windows.
Winther Hall Vestibule (Project 07K3P) - This project replaced two sets of direct entry doorways with new lobby entrance and vestibule. The second set of doors were sealed shut and replaced with windows. This vestibule will prevent considerable temperature loss in building by limiting direct outside air exchange.
Various entryway improvements at Kachel Field House and Williams Center were completed to improve efficiency and accessibility.
Installed replacement air handler over Gym #1 in Williams Center that operates at greater efficiency.
Energy use data for all campus buildings can be found here at a later date.
No matter how efficiently we operate our campus, utilizing carbon-free, renewable energy sources is the only real way we will take the final steps toward carbon neutrality. However, most renewable energy (primarily wind or solar electricity generation) is relatively expensive, inefficient, and low-impact compared to fossil fuels. Too often this is used to argue against renewable energy, but it really illustrates how valuable and powerful fossil fuels are and how completely reliant we are on their incredible energy potential. As the effects of climate change become more pronounced and the projections by scientists continue to get more pessimistic, we have not abandoned the challenge of installing renewable energy entirely and continue to investigate and pursue opportunities that appropriately balance cost and output. Below you will see what successes we have had and learn about opportunities we hope to explore further as they become more feasible.