As the largest university in North Carolina, NC State requires a lot of energy and water to operate hundreds of campus buildings. But thanks to proactive energy and water management, the university continues its utility-saving trend.
NC State’s recently-released 2018 Strategic Energy and Water Report highlights the university’s efforts to reduce utility use and cost during the 2018 fiscal year.
Produced by the campus Energy Management office, the report includes utility use and expenses, successful efficiency projects and future plans to drive down utility use even further.
“Energy and water are among NC State’s most necessary and costly expenses,” said Erik Hall, NC State’s Director of Energy Management. “By actively managing and reducing our energy and water use, the university conserves vital fiscal and natural resources.”
During the 2018 fiscal year, campus energy use intensity per gross square foot declined to 31 percent from the baseline fiscal year of 2002-2003. That’s a slight increase from the previous year due in part to a major purchase of fuel oil, which is the backup fuel supply for campus utility plants.
“Our reporting requirements with the state of North Carolina measure energy use based on energy purchased, not energy consumed. Most of the time, those are similar,” Hall said. “This year, however, we refilled campus fuel oil tanks, which had not been done in a couple of years.”
The purchase, which accounted for 5 percent of the utility budget, caused the uptick in reported energy use intensity. Typically, NC State uses fuel oil only in periods of natural gas curtailment during which natural gas suppliers stop serving campus in order to meet high regional demand.
Additionally, the 2018 winter season was colder than the previous two years, requiring more energy use to heat campus buildings.
Per gross square foot, both energy consumption and utility costs have shown downward trends since 2009. Energy and water efficiency gains, coupled with low natural gas prices and Energy Management’s strategic purchasing of natural gas, have stabilized utility cost intensity despite rising energy and water prices.
During the 2018 fiscal year, NC State’s potable water use per gross square foot was 53 percent below the baseline fiscal year of 2001-2002. That’s a record low due in part to NC State’s use of reuse water.
Reuse water ‒ sometimes called reclaimed water or non-potable water ‒ is wastewater treated to a high standard and reused instead of being discharged into a waterway. On Centennial Campus, reuse water supplied by the City of Raleigh is used for irrigation, toilet flushing in Hunt Library and in cooling towers at the Centennial Campus Utility Plant.
“The benefits of reuse water are decreased cost and drought resistance,” Hall said.
Because reuse water has a higher concentration of impurities than potable water, the cooling tower basins at the central utility plant must be more frequently drained. Though that increases non-potable water use, Hall said the benefits of reuse water outweigh the additional water use.
NC State is tracking toward two major goals: a 40 percent reduction in energy use intensity and a 65 percent reduction in water use per gross square foot.
One major step toward the energy goal comes online later this month when NC State begins producing 6.5 megawatts of electricity from the combined heat and power plant at the Centennial Campus Utility Plant. This technology will enable on-campus energy generation, which is expected to generated nearly $1.6 million in annual energy savings.
Major efficiency projects like this are funded through energy performance contracts, which allow the university to pay for significant efficiency improvements with future savings. This energy performance contract is NC State’s fourth and brings the total utility costs avoided by energy performance contracts to almost $10 million each year.
“These major projects, as well as smaller efficiency projects we conduct year-round, are having an impact,” Hall said. “Together with the campus community’s efforts to save energy and water, NC State is well on its way to reaching our reduction goals.”
The full Energy and Water Report is available online.