University of Cincinnati Reduces Energy Spend by $9M a Year

June 19, 2014 By Karen Henry

univ-cincinnati-entrance-energy-manageThe University of Cincinnati’s aggressive approach to energy management is paying off. According to Forbes, the university has lowered its energy costs by $9 million per year.

The University of Cincinnati (UC) spends $30 million per year on steam, chilled water, and electricity. Optimizing its energy investment has required ongoing coordination between a number of university administrative and academic departments.

UC sponsors energy competitions between student housing units, and the university’s custodians encourage students to turn off their lights, remove space heaters, and close fume hood sashes.

The university incorporates energy-efficiency measures as part of planned building rehabilitations and upgrades rather than treating these as two separate projects.

UC has also implemented energy-efficiency measures to address its two aging coal-fired boilers. Rather than retrofit the oldest of the two boilers, it was able to eliminate it by cutting the amount of ventilation in its research laboratories from 10–15 air changes per hour to four to eight air changes, based on whether or not the labs are occupied.

UC installed new combustion controls, a solid-state variable-speed drive and state of the art feeders in its other boiler. The boiler now burns wastepaper pellets instead of coal. A product of Greenwood Energy in Wisconsin, the wastepaper pellets are made from materials that cannot be recycled. The pellets are about the size of coal, move better than coal, and burn with a high BTU value.

As part of the PJM Interconnection (mid-Atlantic) power pool, UC is charged capacity costs for five peak capacity (CP) days per year. Peak demand could account for as much as 40–50 percent of UC’s overall energy bill. If PJM hits one of its five CP, the university drives energy demand to zero by operating gas chillers, two thermal storage units, and generators.

The 2.8 and 4.0 million thermal storage units help keep costs down by using cheaper off-peak nighttime power to chill water used for air conditioning during the day.

Because solar and wind are not great resources in Ohio, UC has opted instead to invest in infrastructure improvements that will lower its overall energy use rather than invest in renewables. For the last eight years, the university has been able to keep its cost of utilities flat, despite a 20–30 percent increase in student enrollment and the addition of a wet lab and a recreation center.

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