Friday, April 29, 2016

Your Role in UMD’s Renewable Energy Revolution


**This blog is part of a sustainability series written by student members of the BSOS Sustainability Task Force. To find out more about the task force, click here.**
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Written by: Aaron Aber


Metering is the process of measuring the amount of electrical energy being consumed by a residence, business, or electronic device. Most buildings at UMD are measured for electricity and steam consumption. The campus metering system collects data every 15 minutes for electricity use and for steam consumption every hour. Many campuses have and still operate on one or a few meters because of the high purchase price and installation costs of energy-efficient sub- meters. Some campuses have switched to sub-metering, which enhances energy monitoring capability and isolates opportunities for reducing energy use.

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    We set out to understand how UMD monitors its energy consumption. Finding an answer to whether buildings are individually metered was no easy task. However, after emails, phone calls, and a long walk to the Chesapeake Building, we discovered more about UMD’s efforts to track energy use than we could have imagined. After speaking with Mr. Chauncey Jenkins in Facilities Management, weI discovered that, in fact, UMD has taken steps to make its energy use data more transparent. Facilities Management is unveiling a new website, linked later in this article, that will allow students to track energy use over time of any building on campus. It tabulates that energy use, allows for building comparisons, and even provides square footage to allow for more individualized office calculations.

    This is not all that UMD is doing to ensure sustainability. According to Mr. Jenkins, the renovations currently taking place on HJ Patterson Hall will include sensors on individual circuits to allow for monitoring of individual electronic use. Jenkins says he hopes that the sensors will encourage behavioral changes, and that, if successful, they can be implemented in more locations on campus.

    UMD has published http://terpfootprints.umd.edu/campus, which is an easy-to-use website that offers the Energy Use Intensity (EUI) for each building on campus. The site uses Google Maps integration to allow users to toggle map layers (classrooms, labs, residential, offices and other) to specifically see how efficiently each building uses energy in relation to its size. If users are unsure of a building name or where to find it on campus, the integration also has a satellite function that allows them to see an aerial view of the buildings. The website also has charts that display UMD’s total use of electricity, water, steam, and chilled water by month in comparison to respective months last year. At the top of the screen, there is a corner that shows daily, monthly, and annual data for each building on campus. This application facilitates discovering trends in the data, making it easy for anyone to see how the University’s energy and water usage is changing over time.

    These efforts to learn about meeting have important implications for sustainability on campus. Wasted energy is unsustainable because it costs money and adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. However, individual behaviors can help to combat this problem. Small steps can accumulate into leaps forward when actions become habits. These small steps include: utilizing natural light when it is available, switching lights off when they are not in use, unplugging chargers when they are not charging appliances, and using energy star-rated items. Students and faculty could also lobby the University Senate to make policies that incentivize these best management practices, or they could lobby decision makers in the Maryland General Assembly to incentivize the campus into acting more sustainably.

The University of Maryland consumes a lot of energy because of its large population and its more than 300 facilities on 1,250 acres, including many energy-intensive research labs. Natural gas is the campus’s main source of electricity and steam, which intensifies our dependence on fossil fuels. However, the campus plans to become carbon neutral and is taking steps to reach this goal. By 2020, UMD plans to only buy electricity from regional power plants using renewable energy, including wind, solar and thermal. The University will install more than 9,000 solar panels on campus, which will help decrease dependence on fossil fuels. Moreover, the campus will upgrade energy efficiency of existing buildings, which will decrease total energy use by 20%. New buildings will be designed with high energy efficiency and only use renewable energy.

UMD has also installed over 200 occupancy sensors in general purpose classrooms across campus, helping to minimize lighting levels when not in.  From the twenty four buildings completed to date, hallway lighting retrofits average a 73 percent reduction in watts per square foot and a 3 year payback. Annual savings equal $164,000. There are twenty four remaining academic buildings eligible for retrofits.Since 2008, Facilities Management has retrofitted hallway lighting in 24 buildings across campus. The program consists of replacing T8 fixtures with more energy efficient dimmable T5 fixtures while reducing the total number of fixtures in each hallway. These efforts, as well, tie to metering by allowing energy use to be more targeted and more efficient.
    These changes in energy coming to campus may seem beyond the reach and scope of students. However, Mr. Jenkins of Facilities Management offered a simple solution for students to help UMD track and reduce its energy consumption. He challenged students to participate in retuning, or looking in their daily lives for inefficiencies in buildings that need fixing. Jenkins suggests that this access to information and efforts to change behavior will help the campus reduce its energy footprint, perhaps just as much as the campus’s lofty efforts to transition to renewables. IF you have ever seen missing insulation or wondered how much energy is wasted when the lights in the offices in Susquehanna are left on all weekend, then you can participate in retuning. You can also track the energy use of your dorm or classroom buildings at http://terpfootprints.umd.edu/campus.

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