New Technology Gets Facilities Green(er)
New Technology Gets Facilities Green(er)
Walking through the steam plant, pipes twisting in every direction, its insides bathed in the warm glow of industrial lighting and surrounded by the all-encompassing heat, one loses the sense of being on a university campus. In truth, this is a part of the campus most students, faculty and staff never see--arguably its beating heart.
Randall Bohlman, an analyst with UND Facilities and a member of the UND Sustainability Council, has brought our tour here to see the steam plant’s variable frequency drives (VFD). The engineering is complicated but the theory is simple: a motor doesn’t need to use energy when it isn’t in use.
Before installing the VFD, the motors that run the boilers and baghouse fans would operate at a constant speed, using energy at a constant rate, even though the flow of air or material into the boiler varies. With the installation of the VFD, those motors are run at the optimal speed for the amount of material or gas they are processing. The result is a “smart” boiler that uses energy more efficiently.
Installing VFD is just one plank of a plan to improve efficiency and capture economies of scale across campus with funds provided in a $2 million federal energy grant. “The grant is an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Energy Efficiency Improvement Program for State Facilities,” says Bohlman.
Technologies like this one aren’t limited to the industrial interiors of the steam plant. Across campus, similar cost and energy-saving strategies are being introduced.
In the Wilkerson Dining Center, VFD technology in the form of the new range hood will be installed this Fall. Major food service facilities cook large quantities of food under range hoods that remove steam, heat and grease vapors. Because steam and heat were being constantly generated by the cooking process, and even at night, vapors might need to be exhausted, the hoods typically run 24/7, wasting energy and money.
With the installation VFD and captive air jets, the volume of air being exhausted has been reduced by 30 percent, and the run time is now controlled by sensors that detects heat, steam and grease only while cooks are preparing food. “The hood will actually ramp up or speed up automatically to eliminate the heat and make cooking more comfortable” said Bohlman.
The system will be operational in Wilkerson, the Terrace Cafeteria, the Memorial Union Food Court, and the Squires Dining Center. “This in-turn will reduce the cost of using the equipment significantly and will save a lot of energy,” says Bohlman.
At the steam plant, the electric motors produce over 1000 horse power to move combustion air through, and pump water to the boilers. The result of the new VFD technology has reduced electric motor consumption by 60% at the Steam Plant. And even with the added cost of installing the technology, the system will pay for itself in less than 4.5 years. For Wilkerson, the system will see a return on investment of just over six years.
And this is just the beginning. The first round of updates is almost complete and includes: Energy Conservation Measure Description HVAC CO2 Controls Addition of carbon dioxide (CO2) ventilation control to existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. CO2 controls will monitor levels to maintain adequate levels of indoor air quality while reducing energy and operating costs. This project includes multiple buildings. Steam Plant VFD Steam plant variable frequency drive (VFD) motor control. This project includes installation of VFD on various boiler motors optimizing motor efficiency, thus reducing energy and operating costs. Clifford Hall Lighting The Clifford Hall efficiency lighting retrofit includes retrofitting the existing T-12 florescent light fixtures to use highly efficient T8 florescent bulbs. The building lighting will be improved and the lighting energy reduced by 45 percent. The building's energy and operating costs would be reduced accordingly. School of Medicine Lighting School of Medicine and Health Sciences efficiency lighting retrofit includes retrofitting the existing T-12 florescent light fixtures to use the highly efficient T8 florescent bulbs. The building lighting will be improved and the lighting energy reduced by 45 percent. The building's energy and operating costs would be reduced accordingly. Range Hood Controls Wilkerson Hall and Memorial Union kitchen range hood control. Presently, the range hoods operate 24/7 and require 100 percent outside make-up air to the kitchens. By adding captive jets, air flow would be reduced by 30 percent. The addition of automated energy management systems would modulate the range hood air volume, or turn them off based on required ventilation. Streibel Hall HVAC and CO2 DVC Control Steibel Hall exhaust modifications and demand control ventilation. The building currently has more exhaust air than necessary. Exhaust air would be reduced to meet required codes. Make-up air systems would be modulated to reduce make-up air to meet necessary levels to maintain indoor air quality and codes.
When all of the systems are put in place, the University will save over 8,000 MMBtu of electricity, more than 41,000 MMBtu of steam. “These projects will not only reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions,” says Bohlman, “they will also increase quality of life and safety for the campus and community.”
“We’ve been really fortunate in getting grants, mostly from the state of North Dakota, to upgrade our infrastructure,” said Larry Zitzow, director of Facilities Management at UND and chair of the UND Council on Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability. “These ongoing improvements aim to reduce our carbon footprint and save utility dollars.
Abhishek Goswami Student Reporter Jordan Simon Principal Videographer
Craig Garaas-Johnson News & Features Editor, Photos
University of North Dakota. "New Technology Gets Facilities Green(er)" (2011). UND News Features. 79.