U Illinois Urbana Saves $5 Million From Energy Efficiency

Classroom With Old Green Desks Photo

Image via: Mookio on Flickr

Here's a good story about how the University of Illinois, Urbana campus upgraded old systems and ended up not only reaching its energy efficiency goals ahead of schedule but also how it saved the school about $5 million in operating costs. We often write about how schools, homes and businesses are installing solar panels and wind turbines to help cut their energy bills. But inevitably, and quite rightly, people point out the equally important (if not more so) value in just cutting consumption in the first place before installing fancy technology. So we'd like to highlight a university that is doing just that and proved that it worked.

The University was tasked with meeting a goal of reducing consumption 10% by 2010. So, what is a school to do? Hold a competition among dorms to get students to turn out lights? Cut campus hours back? Well, part of the solution did include an education element on personal responsibility but it also included just basic updates to old, outdated systems. They looked at 44 of the buildings that used the most electricity and went through to update over 80,000 light fixtures and ballasts. More buildings will be updated over the next half of this year, amounting in additional savings in both costs and electricity. The school is also installing motion sensors to turn lights off in classrooms after thirty minutes of inactivity. Though these systems are more costly and complicated to install so they will be selective about where they go.

Ruprecht Director of Energy Conservation University Illinois Urbana Photo

Terry Ruprecht, Director of Energy Conservation. University of Illinois, Urbana. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Other upgrades include "programmable controls and occupancy sensors" in several buildings. Thus far, there has been on average a savings of 27% in each building on electricity, amounting to roughly $1.8 million. Another unexpected upside is customer satisfaction in many of the buildings. The Facilities and Services department has noticed a considerable decrease in the complaints about a building being too hot or too cold or the lighting systems not working because systems are much better managed now.

A major portion of this project was paid for by grants and rebates, and itself cost nearly $5 million to implement, resulting in the program basically breaking even its first year. The upgrades are expected to save the school roughly $1 million annually, based on a 12 hour day. Now with all of those savings, maybe they can put them into more upgrades or into a fancy renewable energy system. :University of Illinois, Urbana
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