Harnessing high-tech has helped
UND heat more buildings with less energy – and harvest a
national award. The University of North Dakota is the first educational
facility to receive the prestigious Administrator Award for Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy from the Western Area Power Administration
(WAPA), part of the U.S. Department of Energy.
The award is especially meaningful, says Director of Facilities
Larry Zitzow, because UND played no part in the nomination process.
WAPA, which operates the hydroelectric generating stations on
the Missouri River, selected UND on its own from the thousands
of customers who purchase its energy.
The award recognizes UND’s successful campus energy efficiency
program, its innovative approach to funding, and its development
of an effective energy management team.
But the University isn’t looking for a star on its chest,
says Randall Bohlman, technology advancement coordinator and certified
energy manager with the Facilities Department. There are financial
reasons to manage energy use, and technology can contain costs
and increase efficiency.
In 1982, the steam plant heated 3.1 million square feet of space.
Today, it heats 6.5 million square feet of space, a 110 percent
increase, with a 10 percent smaller peak load. Since 1985, energy
usage has been lowered by more than 40 percent, even though the
campus has grown significantly, including the addition of a number
of research buildings whose equipment and environmental controls
often require more electricity.
Using technology to heat more buildings with less power has also
resulted in reduced labor costs, fewer breakdowns, and the ability
to monitor buildings and catch problems before they escalate.
“We would be paying millions of dollars more to operate
the campus if we didn’t use this technology,” Zitzow
Within the Facilities headquarters, a communications center monitors
electronic sensors in individual buildings. The sensors transmit
data on temperature, energy use, and other vital signs. When buildings
are empty and heating and cooling functions aren’t as critical,
the system automatically adjusts the temperature and ventilation.
This ability to manage energy use also results in a lower electricity
rate from power companies, since UND has the capability to manage
power use during “peak loads” and thus lower demand
on its suppliers.
UND’s biggest, but not only, electrical supplier is WAPA.
The University has the capacity to use multiple sources, thanks
to a decision made decades ago to invest in its own electrical
infrastructure so that it would not be dependent upon the transmission
system of a single supplier. UND is the only North Dakota institution
of higher education with that capability at present.
The University is constantly designing and considering projects
to further enhance efficiency. Return on investment is a primary
consideration: projects are expected to return their costs in
10 years or less, without factoring in labor and maintenance savings.
Some projects are funded via the State Facility Energy Improvement
Program, established by the State Legislature in 2002. UND has
received more than $3.9 million from the program, and commissioned
11 projects that have generated an additional $640,000 in yearly
energy savings. These projects will pay for themselves in a little
over six years, Zitzow said.
For example, electricians recently replaced half the light fixtures
on campus. The new lights use two-thirds less electricity, and
have reduced the entire campus electricity load by 15 percent
— all while increasing the quality of light in the buildings.
A bonus: the new bulbs last three years, saving maintenance costs.
UND officials figure their conservation and energy management
programs help avoid some $2 million in costs per year. “There
aren’t many people nationwide doing what we are,”
Zitzow said. For example, a new heat recovery project, which transfers
heat from exhaust air to fresh air, has cut ventilation costs
from $7,027 per year to just $350 in one building alone.
The University is also capable of producing some of its own power.
Three new generators create enough electricity to handle emergencies
as well as reduce overall costs.
Next on the agenda: An examination of the feasibility of using
wind power on campus.