UI eyes saving utility $


UI officials are working to create a greener campus using a portion of its $35.5 million in federal stimulus funding for fiscal 2010.

The environmentally friendly agenda, known as the Energy Hawks initiative, received roughly $3 million in funding. It aims to reduce energy consumption at the UI.

Liz Christiansen, the director of the Office of Sustainability, said she thinks the initiative is a positive step.

“The Energy Hawks initiative will be a focused and aggressive effort to seek and act out on those energy saving methods that can be done quickly, while also identifying those measures that require further planning and coordination,” she said.

The money will fund projects for both immediate and long-term improvements, said Don Guckert, the UI associate vice president for UI Facilities Management.

A team of experts from different fields will speed the changes for low-cost plans, he said. For example, inspecting heating and cooling equipment yearly and monitoring the systems constantly.

The group consists of an energy engineer, two building controls technicians, two maintenance personnel and one operations engineer.

Other energy conservation projects could also potentially work in the long run through the program, Guckert said.

The Energy Hawks initiative consists of several parts, like increasing energy savings — officials expect to shave off $1 million in utilities each year.

They will do so by creating a new Energy Control Center in University Services Building. The center will be a central location for monitoring energy use throughout campus, Guckert said.

Officials have purchased technology for the center, which will continue to be usable within roughly a month.

“We would be able to monitor eventually the entire energy usage across campus,” he said.

The center will control the heating and cooling systems of rooms across campus, meaning if a classroom is empty, staff can cut back the air conditioning or heating of those rooms from one location. Conversely, faculty members can call the center to adjust the heating and cooling systems.

The center can also evaluate a building’s overall energy performance. If part of a building is too cold and another is overheated, officials could see the building’s energy systems are not functioning properly.

“The best analogy is an automobile whose engine is out of tune,” Guckert said.

Officials also plan to expand facilities for researching water-quality improvements as a part of the Energy Hawks initiative. The College of Engineering, which maintains research labs dealing with water quality, will see renovations and additions for students and staff who research in this field.

The third part of the plan is to save money by having one large virtual server replace the 30 smaller servers currently working at the UI.

This will result in a 90 percent reduction in power and cooling consumption, said Lynnette Racevskis, a business and financial analyst with UI Information Technology Services.

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