From VT News | February 24, 2020

Over $3.1 million in approved funding will help Virginia Tech amplify its energy conservation efforts over the next year.

The investment will continue to catalyze the university’s Five-Year Energy Action Plan, a comprehensive blueprint to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs within five years in the 50 most energy-intensive, “energy hog” buildings on the Blacksburg campus.

In the first four phases of the Energy Action Plan, the university has reduced its carbon emissions by approximately 23,000 tons per year and saved more than $2.3 million in equivalent annual energy costs.

The plan is swiftly approaching full integration — and expected to yield more than $6 million in overall energy cost savings.

When the Office of Energy Management within the Virginia Tech Facilities Department conducted an energy benchmarking analysis of buildings on the Blacksburg campus in 2015-16, it discovered 50 buildings accounted for more than 70 percent of overall university energy costs; that is just 35 percent of all buildings on campus.

The Energy Action Plan combines energy data analysis with energy accounting and retrofitting projects to achieve significant energy cost reductions. Since 2016, four phases of the Energy Action Plan have been implemented with 10 new energy-intensive buildings incorporated into each phase.

One of the cornerstones of the Energy Action Plan is leveraging data to optimize energy usage to achieve energy efficiency at scale on campus. Ten new buildings are added to the university’s energy management platform during each phase. New smart meter infrastructure also continues to be installed in campus buildings. These efforts, paired with ongoing energy audits in the field, enable practitioners to identify energy consumption patterns in real time to optimize lighting, ventilation, heating, and air based on demand.

Also under the plan, ongoing retrofitting projects, especially in laboratories – largescale energy contributors on campus – continue to help improve energy efficiency in energy hog buildings.

“As we approach the final phase of the of the initial Energy Action Plan, energy conservation remains at the forefront of all Facilities Department activities at Virginia Tech. Through efforts like the Energy Action Plan, award-winning sustainability program, and strong environmental standards for new and existing construction, we will continue to make headway in our energy reduction and sustainability efforts,” said Christopher H. Kiwus, associate vice president and chief facilities officer.

Among the proposed projects under Phase 5 (2019-20) of the Energy Action Plan are:

Implementation of energy retrofit projects identified in Phase 4, which include:

  • LED lighting overhaul in a range of buildings.
  • Lab ventilation optimization.
  • Retro-commissioning of HVAC energy systems.
  • Power plant compressed air system optimization.
  • Integration of 10 additional energy-intensive buildings into the university’s energy management platform.
  • Ongoing meter replacement and maintenance.
  • Implementation of rooftop solar project at the Sterrett Facilities Complex.

“It is an undeniably exciting time to be at Virginia Tech, and this rings especially true as it relates to sustainability. Current initiatives like the Energy Action Plan and revisions to the Climate Action Commitment are strong indicators of the university’s long-term engagement in environmental stewardship. We will continue to work collaboratively in seeking out new opportunities to invest time, knowledge, and financial resources in pursuit of a more sustainable society,” said Dwayne Pinkney, senior vice president and chief business officer.

The  Climate Action Commitment is the university’s guiding framework around sustainability and energy efficiency in campus operations, facilities, curriculum, and research. In continued commitment to sustainability, President Tim Sands recently called for  renewal of the commitment.

A working group of university leaders across operations, academics, research, students, and community representatives are currently examining Climate Action Commitment goals to ensure the most rigorous sustainability standards are implemented.

Energy efficiency is a connecting theme among the subcommittees tasked with delivering recommendations for the commitment’s latest iterations.

For example, the Energy Opportunities subcommittee is reviewing progress and opportunities around energy efficiency as they relate to the campus steam plant, on-campus chiller plantsVirginia Tech Electric Service, and energy demand reductions conducted throughout the year by the Facilities Department.

Similarly, the Buildings Opportunities subcommittee is striving to deliver recommendations that build upon the successes of the Five-Year Energy Action Plan by investigating new ways to boost energy efficiency in new and existing buildings on campus.

Exploring renewable energy opportunities, including solar, biomass, and wind on Virginia Tech properties — and through new partnership building — is central to the efforts of the Renewable Energy Opportunities subcommittee.

The latest information around Virginia Tech’s sustainability achievements, including updates to the Climate Action Commitment, will be shared in the Virginia Tech Daily.

More information about the Climate Action Commitment revision process, working group, and subcommittees may be found here.

Please  click here to learn more about the Five-Year Energy Action Plan. For specific questions on the plan, please contact the Office of Energy Management at 540-231-6348.
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