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June 28, 2012

Pitt energy projects earn Duquesne Light rebates

Eleven energy-efficiency projects on the Pittsburgh campus have netted more than $327,000 in rebates from Duquesne Light along with the promise of ongoing savings from the reduced power usage.

Laura W. Zullo, Facilities Management’s senior manager for energy initiatives, said the University would save nearly 4.8 million kilowatt hours annually due to the upgrades.

Based on anticipated electric rates, the projects will enable the University to avoid an estimated $350,000 in electric costs in the upcoming fiscal year, she said. That is the equivalent of about 3 percent of the electric bill that comes under the education and general (E&G) facilities budget, Zullo said.

A bonus is that some of the projects save on steam in addition to electricity, she noted.

Zullo could not estimate the cost of the projects, explaining that the energy-efficiency improvements were part of larger upgrades to the campus facilities.

The rebate checks will be directed toward additional energy conservation projects, she said. The power company rebates are related to Act 129, which mandated that the state’s largest power companies reduce electric consumption and peak demand. As part of the program, earlier this year, Duquesne Light contractors conducted an energy audit evaluating and documenting the energy-saving projects. (See Feb. 9 University Times.)

Other energy conservation projects are planned, Zullo said, adding that the Duquesne Light rebates were for projects that were completed before June 1.

Among the projects was more energy-efficient lighting for the Soldiers and Sailors garage, Thackeray Hall and Victoria Hall.

High-pressure sodium garage lighting was replaced with fluorescent and metal halide fixtures. In addition, timers were installed to turn off the lights automatically when the garage is closed.

Efficiency improvements were made to the lower campus chilled water system, including a new chiller and automated controls for its free cooling system. The free cooling system uses outside air temperatures when possible to produce chilled water for building cooling, reducing the need to run the chiller, Zullo said.

Several of the projects involved installing variable frequency drives (VFDs), variable air volume (VAV) systems, new motors and new lighting to raise the campus’s energy efficiency.

VFDs, which allow motors to run at lower levels for lower loads, were installed in Benedum Hall, Lawrence Hall, Hillman Library, the LRDC building and the lower campus chilled water loop.

VAVs, which are similar energy-saving devices for ventilation systems, were installed at Thackeray and Victoria halls. VAVs enable fans to work more efficiently by adjusting to temperature variations instead of running at a constant volume, Zullo said.

A new Aircuity demand-controlled ventilation system was installed in parts of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at Benedum Hall, a first for Pittsburgh campus labs, Zullo said.

She explained that a certain number of air changes per hour are required for research lab areas, which usually cannot recirculate air. Typically air change rates are based on assumed conditions rather than on actual conditions, Zullo said. The Aircuity system uses sensors to test air quality and adjusts ventilation accordingly.

Zullo said Aircuity system installations also are planned for the Salk Hall addition, the Graduate School of Public Health expansion and renovation and the mid-campus research complex renovations. Facilities Management also plans to test Aircuity in animal facilities, which, if successful, Zullo said, could provide additional savings.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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