North Texas Daily

UNT really does mean green

UNT really does mean green

The Eagle Point Wind Turbines near Apogee Stadium generate power for UNT. Jake King

UNT really does mean green
May 03
16:52 2017

Julia Falcon & Jackie Guerrero | Staff Writers

For years, UNT has advertised itself as a “green” university with ecologically friendly buildings and programs. But just how “green” is it?

The school is projected to be ranked as No. 1 in Texas in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partnership for 2017. Its efforts in waste conservation and electricity and water use has propelled UNT to become a school conscious of its environmental footprint.

Associate vice president of facilities David Reynolds said the recent purchase of renewable energy credits with the We Mean Green Fund, as well as the Bigbelly solar-powered trash compactors on campus, are just a few examples of intiatives the school is making to truly be “green.”

“Any solution to issues across campus, UNT is looking for a long-term solution that is good for the university and community for the long term, not necessarily a short term easy to fix,” he said.

Green waste management, water and power

Reynolds said the Bigbelly trash cans reduced the amount of workers sent out to empty the cans and increased the amount of items recycled, while also promoting sustainability and recycling on campus. Recycling services supervisor Douglas Turnage said the university made about $20,000 on recycled products in 2016.

UNT is now powered 100 percent by renewable energy. A partnership between the We Mean Green Fund and Denton Municipal Electric’s Green Sense Renewable Energy Program took UNT to that level of sustainability on April 1. Facilities energy engineer Josh Lukin said the fund was possible through the Texas renewable energy credit market.

Trash cans with solar cells on top are located around campus, generating energy. Jake King

“It gives us the ability to account for the environmental impact of our electricity purchased as it was produced,” Lukin said. “The renewable energy credits have to do with what types of energy we buy, not that we use.”

In 2012, UNT partnered with Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management and automation. Lukin said this project helps the university conserve energy usage on campus by putting controls and equipment into each building, as well as the central water plant.

Since the project started, UNT is averaging about 11 percent less electricity and about 28 percent less water per year, he said.

This year, the university plans to use 110 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, equal to powering 11 small cities with about 80,000 people, 180 million cubic feet of natural gas, enough to fill almost 200,000 basketball courts and 120 million gallons of water, equivalent to almost 180 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

All of the buildings on campus are automatically operated and only operated when needed. UNT has “improved” the operational systems with all the new building have “better” systems, trying to “keep up with the best,” Lukin said.

Located at Discovery Park, there is a Zero Energy (ZØE) Research Laboratory where students and professors conduct research on energy conservation and production, research for sustainable energy and research on human comfort in buildings and houses.

Chairman of the department of mechanical and energy engineering John Kuruvilla explained the ZØE is used strictly for research.

“The building is a wonderful living laboratory for graduate and undergraduate students for research,” Kuruvilla said. “We have faculty using that building doing innovative research, energy harvesting from waste, heat and h-vac system.”

The lab itself has 12 solar panels on the roof and is shaped in such a way that it collects and harvests rainwater. Other features include a wind turbine next to the building and geothermal heat pumping capabilities from under the ground that get fed into the grid for electrical energy.

“The pros are obviously allowing energy production with the cheap source of the sun,” Kuruvilla said. “The con is, we are prone to extreme weather and we worry about hail damage.”

Other enhancements include looking at the UNT design guidelines, the replacing of bathroom fixtures like toilets and urinals, which can help preserve 60 percent of the water used when compared to the older fixtures Lukin explained.

In the near future the university is planning on creating a central irrigation system installed to have algorithms and analysis to assist in water conservation across campus, Lukin said. This system will water plants when needed and give them the correct amount of water.

Featured Image: The Eagle Point wind turbines near Apogee Stadium generate power for UNT. Jake King

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Julia Falcon

Julia Falcon

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