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Sustainable 2nd Century

Sustainable 2nd Century

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Campus Progress: Energy

Our Sustainable 2nd Century vision: UC Davis borrows from its own research to improve campus operations, with projects that conserve and generate energy in innovative ways.

Photo: Two men standing by a newly installed chiller

Utilities Associate Director Chris Cioni, left, and Project Manager Scott Arntzen made quick work of an upgrade to the campus’s cooling system. New, energy-saving chillers earned a $1.25 million PG&E rebate.

Where we are

Improving energy systems at an institution as large as UC Davis requires examining conservation efforts, energy sources and new production technologies.

Conservation efforts at UC Davis include a wide palette of strategies, including facility retrofits, equipment exchanges and efficient new designs. Campaigns to help individuals conserve energy in offices and classrooms have also yielded considerable energy savings.

In 2006-08, campus completed 35 infrastructure projects for an annual savings of 8.5 million kilowatt-hours per year and 2.8 million therms of natural gas. Cost savings for these projects are estimated at $3 million per year. The renovations have included air conditioning, monitoring systems, steam traps, central chilling plant conversion and lighting upgrades.

The Strategic Energy Partnership with PG&E is helping continue these upgrades in 2009-11, with more than 160 projects throughout campus. The costs will be partially paid for with PG&E funding and energy-cost savings. Combined, the projects are expected to save more than 35 million kwh, 2.2 million therms and $5.1 million annually.

Most of campus electricity is purchased from utility companies, which in 2008 included a mix of 45 percent natural gas, 17 percent coal, 15 percent nuclear, 13 percent hydro, 4 percent geothermal, 2 percent biomass, 2 percent wind and 1 percent solar. For heating and cooling, the campus uses large boilers in a central plant, with about 92 percent of heating energy derived from natural gas, and 4 percent from biomass.

UC Davis supplies a small amount of its own electricity and heating with renewable resources. In campus cooperative housing, solar photovoltaic cells supply power, while solar heating is used in several other buildings. Methane captured from the campus landfill is used to power the boiler of a nearby research center. Work is under way to install additional solar cells on campus, and funding has been secured to create an on-site waste-to-energy system for UC Davis West Village.

Graphic: Graph from Utilities Dashboard showing energy consumption over time

The Utilities Consumption Dashboard gives useful information for measuring a building's energy savings.

Keeping an eye on the ‘Dashboard’

To help enable conservation by campus energy users, UC Davis Facilities Management has created the Utilities Consumption Dashboard website to quantify campus energy use in real time.

Users can see a particular building's daily electrical use by the hour. That data can be compared side by side with the previous week's average or with another building's energy use on campus. Because electrical load can vary seasonally, statistics are also available by month since 2007. Campus-wide electrical use is also available on the site.

By analyzing spikes in energy use, the campus can isolate peak times or diagnose inefficient equipment, such as old freezers and refrigerators that need to be replaced.

Photo: LED lights at night

LED lights in the South Entry Parking Structure reduce energy use.

Saving energy with smarter lighting

In 2010, UC Davis announced it will reduce energy use related to campus lighting by 60 percent over five years. Between 2007 and 2010, campus reduced lighting energy use by 10 percent.

Meeting this goal is a joint venture with the California Lighting Technology Center, a campus research unit that demonstrates new lighting technologies aimed at wide-scale, commercial use. Using new lighting technologies on campus not only saves energy costs, but allows UC Davis to serve as a model for the rest of California by demonstrating effective new technologies in a real-world setting. 

With help from the center, parking structures on campus have been retrofitted with either efficient LED or induction lighting equipped with bi-level motion sensors. The system's motion sensors dim the LED lights by half when people are not present. As a car or pedestrian moves through the parking structure, motion sensors signal the lights to brighten. The LED lights alone provide an estimated 50 percent energy savings compared to energy used by conventional lights. When lights are dimmed by the motion sensors, cost savings are closer to 80 percent. Retrofits like these in the West Entry Parking Structure save 1.36 million kwh per year. Parking lots on campus are also being equipped with these more efficient lighting systems. 

The campus is using motion sensors to save energy indoors, too. In residence hall bathrooms, for example, vanity mirror lights make use of motion-sensor technology to turn off when residents are absent. The new systems eliminate three to four hours of lighting each day.

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