North Texas Daily

Energy project to affect campus

Energy project to affect campus

October 14
21:20 2010

By Loryn Thompson & T.S McBride / Intern & Contributing Writer –

UNT may save as much as $3.2 million a year on its electric bill once efficiency upgrades to campus buildings are complete in two years, officials say.

Construction on the Energy Savings Performance project begins in November and will be complete in May 2013. The $42 million project includes the installation of a new large-capacity water chiller, motion-sensitive light switches, water-conserving systems and improved energy management software.

“We’re going to put up a Web page that will keep people posted as the project progresses and post outages,” said Charles Jackson, executive director of facilities. “We’ve got a communication plan that we’re working on with URCM and Schneider Electric so there won’t be any surprises.”

The university is taking out a loan to pay for the upgrades, but the project is expected to pay for itself in savings to electrical and maintenance costs over the next 20 years, Jackson said.

Samuel Atkinson of the biology faculty said the upgrades will be worth the money.

“The new equipment is far more efficient,” he said. “We’ll be releasing far less carbon dioxide because we’ll be using less fossil fuels to generate the power the university needs to operate.”

Jenny Marienau, an organizer with the Sierra Student Coalition, an environmental organization dedicated to reducing pollution, was unimpressed.

“Energy efficiency is an extremely important step,” she said. “But as long as the university gets 50 percent of its energy from coal, it’s not nearly enough.”

Marienau said coal is the dirtiest source of energy.

“It’s inappropriate for an institution that claims to be focused on sustainability to continue using it,” she said.

The university partnered with Schneider Electric to improve many of the university’s current energy and water systems. UNT previously worked with Schneider on a 10-year energy savings project that began in 1997 and allowed the university to save $1.2 million a year in energy costs.

“We do energy conservation retrofits where we’re the prime contractor,” said Roger Flud, energy solutions sales team leader at Schneider Electric. “We basically install and oversee complete energy retrofits.”

Water chillers and pipelines provide cool air for buildings around the university. The new project calls for a new 5.5-mile pipeline that will carry water to 39 campus buildings and a new bus-sized central cooling unit to chill the water, among other things.

The contract with Schneider Electric stipulates that the company will reimburse the university if the savings fail to pay for themselves.

“It’s in the contract,” Jackson said. “They guarantee to provide this much savings per year for this certain period of time and if they do not meet it, they write us a check.”

The construction may cause street and parking closures, Jackson said. He was adamant, however, that classes will not be disrupted and the majority of the in-building work will be done at night.

Once the work is completed, anyone will be able to monitor the energy usage of the upgraded buildings from a website as per the new software. Jackson hopes the available information will help faculty and staff be aware of their daily energy consumption and take steps to reduce it.

“We can look at that and make adjustments if we have to,” Jackson said. “But it will also give us the ability to show people in the building and say ‘Here’s your energy usage.’”

Schneider Electric was given its notice to proceed from the university. The company is readying equipment and gathering materials to begin the project. Students should expect to see construction on campus in early November.

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