By Grant Welker
Herald News Staff Reporter
Posted Nov 27, 2009 @ 06:34 PM
Reprinted from the Herald News
DARTMOUTH - This is the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus's unglamorous planned path to environmental-friendliness: thousands of high-efficiency light bulbs, new motors on a few hundred pumps and vents, and new boilers.
It isn't the same as soaring wind turbines or shining solar panels, but if UMass Dartmouth wants to save up to one-fourth of its utility bill - or a few million dollars a year - low-flow toilets and showerheads might be the best way to get there.
The campus is in the middle of a six-month energy review that will end in March when an auditing firm will give UMass Dartmouth an estimate for how long it can expect a payback on its energy investments. The university hopes a state agency or other source will provide up to $30 million in funding over 20 years to make the campus-wide improvements.
University officials expect a return on their investments in 12 or 13 years.
Such programs are becoming a "tremendously important" method for achieving long-term savings, said Manuel Del Lima, the university's senior resident engineer.
Despite the significant energy savings the university expects, not many of the changes will be easily visible to students, staff or visitors. Most likely, the upgrades will be extra insulation around pipes and ducts, motion sensors so lights automatically turn off in unused rooms, and a system that can remotely control temperatures in buildings across campus.
Depending on the results of the audit, there may be some larger-scale projects, however. Salvatore Filardi, the university's associate vice chancellor for administrative services, said the campus power plant could be outfitted with what is known as co-generation capability. The plant, which now produces steam, could be upgraded to produce electricity as well.
Del Lima, Filardi and the university are also considering the viability of solar panels on the athletic center's roof for either electricity or to heat water.
The energy audit is looking at essentially three different things, Filardi said: upgrades with quick payback periods like efficient lighting; equipment modernizations that may not save money; and a potential retrofitting of the power plant. Each comes with a different payback time but all are needed for balanced savings, Del Lima said.
Some other efforts the campus has made to be greener have been easy to see - like a new 300-space parking lot for freshmen where light fixtures are topped by small solar panels - and others easy to feel, like the decision the administration made last December to keep thermostats set to 66 degrees.
"I appreciate your willingness to add a sweater to your daily wardrobe," Chancellor Jean MacCormack said in a letter to the campus community as part of an announcement of money-saving measures.
Other examples range from the wind-test tower between the library and Cedar Dell testing the feasibility of a wind turbine, to a green roof over a walkway between the campus center and administration building.
MacCormack signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007 that says the university will eliminate its greenhouse gas emissions over time, complete an emissions inventory, take immediate steps to reduce environmental impact and make other changes.