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Friday, October 22, 2010

Energy Summit Projects Show Strong Returns

Many people across campus often know little about the myriad ways sustainability is taking shape behind the scenes at the operational level, and they are sure are many. One area that has seen prolific consideration is energy. Over the last two years, UF has invested millions of dollars into a number of energy efficiency projects throughout campus. Energy Summits, convened by Vice President of Business Affairs, Ed Poppell, brought stakeholders from throughout UF together to identify projects that would save energy, improve operations & maintenance, and reduce UF’s carbon footprint. Representatives from Housing, University Athletic Association, IFAS, Physical Plant Division, Facilities, Planning & Construction, and the Health Science Center came together to identify and implement key projects to accomplish these goals. Since electricity for the university has a $43 million dollar price tag last year, and buildings account for over 70% of our carbon footprint, these projects help reduce costs as well as environmental impact.

As a result of the energy summit projects, most of UF’s buildings are now individually metered for electricity, allowing staff to monitor energy use more accurately and customize building systems to operate more efficiently. Major renovations and equipment replacements included chillers, boilers, and air handlers throughout campus. One project, replacing T-12 lighting fixtures with T-8’s had a return on investment of 61%, with $300,000 annual savings! Smaller projects, like installing occupancy sensors, upgrading filters, and replacing windows were also a part of the Energy Summit projects.

The upgrades and efforts conducted in response to the Energy Summit meetings reflect UF’s commitment to sustainability and carry the institution closer to its goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. However, based upon information gleaned from the 2005 Greenhouse Gas Inventory conducted, it was determined that around 30% of a building’s energy use is attributable to small equipment and behavioral conditions. This insight helped inform the design and implementation of the “Chomp Down on Energy” efficiency campaign to help educate and empower students, staff and faculty to consider the impact their individual actions have on the cumulative energy use (and footprint) of UF. All Gators can learn tips for energy conservation, and actively be a part of the sustainability story unfolding across campus.