University wins award for energy efficient precedence
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 01:02
While the adage “less is more” has not always held true, the University’s Utilities and Energy Management Department has shown that they can do more with less.
Texas A&M was selected by the Environmental Protection Agency as a recipient of its Energy Star CHP (Combined Heat and Power) Award, given to the University in recognition of the CHP plant located on campus that generates enough power for 11,000 homes and supplies energy and heating to the entire campus.
Jim Riley, the executive director of utilities and energy management at A&M is responsible for overseeing the plant and will be accepting the award on behalf of the University at the International District Energy Association Campus Energy Conference in San Diego on Feb. 20. The facility saves the University up to six million dollars a year in energy costs and is twice as efficient as a standard off-site power plant.
“It really is a cutting-edge 21st century, state-of-the-art, highly efficient facility right here in the heart of campus and a lot of people don’t really know that,” Riley said.
CHP facilities conserve energy costs by taking advantage of wasted energy that is normally lost in the power generation process. The facility’s gas turbine generates electricity from natural gas, which drives the facility’s generator. The waste heat from this process is then used to create high-pressure steam which runs through another generator and heats buildings and domestic water for buildings on campus. The CHP allows the University to be self-sustainable.
“Even if there was a regional power outage on the grid, we could operate to produce up to 50 megawatts to power the campus,” Riley said.
The campus has been generating its own power since 1893 — longer than any urban area in the whole region. The facility was a $73.25 million investment by the University, but will be able to pay for itself within 10 years Riley said.
“The payoff has been huge,” he said. “We have improved the operation of the plant and the optimization. It’s about fine tuning and optimizing to make sure that you’re using the energy in the smartest possible way.”
Les Williams, director of utilities and energy management, said the next step toward energy conservation is to focus on the most efficient way to provide power to utilities in on-campus buildings.
“We are looking at the most efficient methodologies to produce and use chilled water, heating hot water and to produce electricity,” Williams said. “In some ways, we have just scratched the surface. We’re about half way through and we need to keep working on the rest [of the buildings].”
In addition to the energy efficiency that the facility provides, it is also environmentally friendly, preventing 99,600 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
Some students say the plant is beneficial for campus in other ways.
“I think if it has a positive effect on the environment, I don’t care about the scenery,” said Hope Boo, exchange student and junior English literature major. “It’ll be clean, refreshing and encourage students to study and live better.”
For some who work for the University’s utility and energy management department, this award is an acknowledgment of their efforts.
“I think it really is a nice acknowledgment of the vision and the foresight and the leadership that the University has shown,” Riley said. “We are the ones that are the experts in utilities and energy, but the University has been very supportive and it’s nice to get that acknowledgement.”