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U North Texas Health Science Center Attacks Energy Usage

The University of North Texas has been doing $8.6 million worth of energy improvements in its Health Science Center. The contracted work, initially begun in 2010, was an extension of one already in place for the entire university. In that agreement, also signed in 2010, the institution will save $42 million over 10 years while decreasing energy consumption across campus. Both agreements are self-funded, meaning that savings will cover the cost of the work, and both are with energy management company Schneider Electric, which the university has been working with since 1997.

The public announcement of the new deal comes at the same time Schneider Electric has launched a new university relations program to encourage collaboration among academia, government, and businesses.

Under the latest agreement the Health Science Center, which has about a million square feet of facility space, is replacing equipment and decreasing energy usage through intelligent energy management systems. Scheduled for completion in early 2012, the project will generate a guaranteed annual energy savings of at least 24 percent, reduce electricity use by 12 percent, decrease natural gas use by 10 percent, and lower water use by 6 percent. The project is also anticipated to generate annual cost savings of $835,000, including $73,000 in utility incentives.

Project progress is being shared with the institutional community on a public website at hsc.unt.edu/wattsup/.

As part of the program, the university is upgrading lighting and controls; replacing mechanical systems including pumps, chillers, and laboratory hood systems; implementing PC power management; and changing out windows. The project is retrofitting 1,100 existing lighting fixtures with high efficiency lamps and ballasts. It's installing 2,700 occupancy sensors so that lights will be used only when needed. It's also lowering light poles in several parking lots and a library entrance to improve lighting efficiency and reduce maintenance costs by up to 90 percent. Schneider Electric is also implementing smart grid technology to curtail utility usage and upgrade building controls to give greater control to facilities people to respond to occupant needs.

The upgrade is expected to reduce the Health Science Center's carbon footprint by 650 tons annually and to decrease carbon dioxide pollution by 2,400 tons each year.

Schneider Electric's new university relations program has multiple goals: to sponsor various energy management-related research projects, provide expertise in development of related curriculum, and provide jobs for new graduates in green technology. The company will also work with institutions to create on-site learning labs that demonstrate future technologies.

Schneider Electric is one of the business sponsors for the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon competition. This program encourages university teams to design, build, and operate their net-zero homes.

"There is a sizable business opportunity in energy management today and the market will continue to grow," said Jeff Drees, Schneider Electric's U.S. president. "We all need to get off the sideline and do our part to ensure there is a skilled workforce at many levels to sustain the demand for energy management solutions. Companies like ours that hold energy management expertise need to not only participate, but help lead this movement in conjunction with the public sector and academia."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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