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Energy-clean 2013: Smart microgrid and renewable energy on campus

Friday, Jan. 11, 2013

With the 4th Annual Energy Challenge less than a month away, it is time again to start thinking about energy efficiency and renewable energy at SCU.

Students examine the new solar photovoltaic array. Photo courtesy of SCU Office of Sustainability. The Energy Challenge will bring all students living on campus together during the month of February to see who can reduce their building’s electricity consumption the most, in comparison to that building’s usage in the past.

More information will be available in the weeks leading up to the start of the competition, but students can start thinking conscientiously about energy use right now by reviewing our campus’ commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy, and by reading about recent clean energy developments in the state of California.

Energy efficiency in campus buildings and residence halls
SCU has continually upgraded its buildings with the newest lighting and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in order to reduce energy consumption. Most buildings on campus use occupancy/light level sensors to conserve energy when rooms are not in use.

SCU has an Energy Management System (EMS) that allows utilities to control various mechanical systems throughout the University, including heating, air conditioning, lighting, and indoor air quality, from a central computer which prevents extreme temperatures within rooms and conserves energy where possible. Some buildings are also equipped with energy meters that provide real-time data on energy consumption.

The new Graham residence hall, home to the Alpha RLC, will receive a U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. It was built with energy conservation in mind and has a number of sustainable design elements that help the building save energy.

Read more about energy efficiency at SCU. 

SCU’s renewable energy resources
University Operations is committed to reducing emissions wherever possible in order to meet SCU’s goal of carbon neutrality. In the past several years, SCU has added a number of renewable energy sources on campus to help offset greenhouse gas emissions.

Most recently, SCU has started to install a smart microgrid on campus, which ties its power source, transmission, distribution, and even consumption data to weather reports for maximum energy savings. The smart grid also reports energy consumption in real-time and can measure carbon emissions. In the event of a major power outage, SCU would be able to remain operational and even generate enough electricity to power nearby homes and businesses.

The first phase of the project has been completed, and after the smart microgrid is fully operational, it is estimated to reduce energy consumption by 50 percent and save the University 20 percent in energy costs.

In 2011, SCU activated a 60-collector solar thermal system, which makes it the largest rooftop solar thermal project completed under the California Solar Initiative - Thermal (CSIT) program. The system will reduce Benson Memorial Center’s water-heating bills by as much as 70 percent and will offset 34 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

SCU is also home to 1,050 kilowatts of photovoltaics. Spread over the roofs of Leavey, the Pat Malley Fitness Center, and as sunshade on the third level of the parking structure is a one megawatt solar array installation that aims to satisfy about 6 percent of the University’s electricity needs.

A 50 kilowatt installation sits atop the Support Services Building, and it provides approximately 89,000 kilowatt hours of electricity every year.

Read more about renewable energy at SCU. 

Proposition 39 funds clean energy projects in California
While Santa Clara is focusing on energy efficiency in the new year with the 4th Annual Energy Challenge, the state of California is also looking to fund more energy efficiency projects and add more clean energy jobs in 2013 with increased tax revenue from Proposition 39.

Proposition 39, which was on the ballot last November and passed with 61 percent of the vote, will dedicate $550 million annually for five years from the initiative’s anticipated increase in revenue in order to fund projects that create energy efficiency and clean energy jobs.

The initiative adds revenue to the state of California through an increase in income tax for multistate businesses. It repeals an existing law that gives out-of-state businesses favorable tax treatment and instead requires them to calculate their California income tax liability based on the percentage of their sales in California.

Supporters of the bill say it will close a tax loophole that has cost the state over $1 billion a year. The Center for the Next Generation, a non-partisan think tank, released an analysis of the clean energy component of Proposition 39 after the initiative passed.

Key findings from the report include:

  • California’s public schools spend more than $700 million per year on energy, which is as much as they spend on all books and supplies.
  • Retrofitting California’s public schools would save at least 30 percent in energy costs per school - a total of $230 million across the entire California public school system.
  • Each project creates approximately 20 jobs per $1 million of investment per year, which totals 11,000 new jobs per year over the five-year period.

Proposition 39 represents a big step forward for clean energy enthusiasts in California, and the measure will reduce energy costs in public schools while helping the state meet its ambitious renewable energy portfolio standard, which aims to increase procurement of renewable energy resources to 33 percent of total procurement by 2020.

By Aven Satre-Meloy, '13 Sustainability Intern -- Communications

Tags: Campus Operations, Climate Neutrality, Energy, Program Highlights

 

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