Thursday, March 17, 2022

Energy conservation efforts save UTSA $3.1 million over 10 years

Energy conservation efforts save UTSA $3.1 million over 10 years

New Boiler at the North Thermal Energy Plant

(March 30, 2018) -- By implementing a series of energy conservation practices, UTSA has kept total energy consumption stable between 2008 and 2017, saving more than $3.1 million despite an increasing student population and growing campus infrastructure.

In 2017, the university consumed an estimated 651,832 million British Thermal Units (mmbtu), compared to its 644,968 mmbtu in energy consumption in 2008. Over that same time period, the university’s overall square footage grew 25 percent to 5.3 million square feet and its enrollment grew by 8 percent to 30,674 students.

Since 2010, the university’s conversation efforts resulted in $740,000 in annual savings and $1,477,000 in rebates. This includes 7,777,000 kwh in electricity savings, 30,600 MCF in gas savings, 30,250,000 gallons in water savings and 7,900 tons of carbon dioxide reduction. 

“Our energy conservation efforts at UTSA are a testament to the hard work and vision of many people,” said Dave Riker, interim senior associate vice president for Business Affairs.  “Students, faculty and staff at UTSA are passionate about sustainability. Together, we have saved enough energy at UTSA to create the same impact as taking 1,365 cars off the roads or planting 416,000 trees.”

Conservation efforts at UTSA have included investing in new energy efficient equipment, air conditioning setbacks and the use of renewable energy with particular attention to research facilities and the thermal energy plants. The latter are among the university’s largest energy consumers.

Notably, in 2011, UTSA unveiled solar installations on its H-E-B Student Union. Installations at its Main Campus Engineering Building and Downtown Campus Durango Building followed. Throughout the projects, UTSA staff members worked with researchers at the university’s Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute to maximize their efficiency. Over a six-year time period, these solar installations generated $481,600 in rebates from CPS Energy.

Significant updates were made in some of the university’s laboratory-heavy buildings. At the Biotechnology, Sciences and Engineering Building, the UTSA Office of Facilities refined the heat recovery system to reduce the number of fresh air changes and improve the dehumidification controls. In the Biosciences Building, it converted the air distribution system from constant to variable air volume to reduce the number of fresh air changes and allow the building to self-modulate based on occupancy. At the Science Research Laboratories, the university invested in an energy recovery system, resulting in an offset purchase of 200 tons of cooling and 2,500 MBH of heating in a safe and effective manner.

The UTSA Office of Facilities also invested in lighting retrofits in its Student Union, Monterey Building, Institute of Texan Cultures and various parking lots  such as Barshop Blvd. Lot 2, Resident Lots 3 & 4, and the Devine Ave Lot. These investments have resulted in an annual energy savings of 850,000 kwh or $41,000 in annual savings.

Water conservation efforts are included in UTSA’s sustainability strategy.

In 2011, UTSA installed synthetic turf on its football practice and intramural fields. That effort has resulted in an annual savings of $115,000 and 21 million gallons of water annually, yielding a $178,000 conservation rebate from the San Antonio Water System.

By using naturally flowing groundwater at the Institute of Texan Cultures fountain, the university has been able to reclaim 650,000 gallons of water per year that it would otherwise have purchased, resulting in an annual savings of $6,200. Likewise, water reclamation efforts have kept UTSA’s iconic Sombrilla Fountain flowing, resulting in an annual savings of $10,000 and 1.1 million gallons per year. 

Conservation awareness among students, faculty and staff has also played an important role in reducing energy use and waste. Additionally, UTSA supports CPS Energy and the community by participating in CPS Energy’s summertime demand response program, a program that reduces the demand of large consumers to prevent overloading the electrical grid. 

UTSA continues to plan for its future energy needs. Currently, it is replacing vintage equipment at its North Thermal Energy Plant. A 2,000-ton steam-driven chiller has recently been replaced with a variable speed, energy efficient 2,500-ton electric chiller that uses a more environmentally friendly refrigerant. The plant’s heating boilers are also being replaced with more energy-efficient equipment. The university’s $95 million, state-of-the-art Science and Engineering Building, currently under construction, has also been designed with energy efficiencies in mind. It will open in 2020.

Christi Fish

Learn more about the UTSA Office of Facilities.

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