Is Penn doing its part to save energy?

Dear Benny,

We keep hearing about rising energy costs and the expectation that energy costs will continue to outpace inflation. Outside of the wind farm, is Penn using other renewable energy technology, such as geothermal energy? Or, considering how much lighting is on campus, is Penn installing energy efficient lights?

— Blowing in the Wind?

Dear Campus Watchdog,

Penn is actually doing a lot to deal with rising energy costs. Our wind energy purchase is still the biggest single factor, with the University now the sixth-largest buyer in the nation.
The University also has a 90-degree-day policy that keeps peak demand for electricity down by raising the temperature of the chilled water used for air conditioning in many of Penn’s buildings, instituting rolling 30-minute shut-offs of air handlers during the hottest hours of the day and sending conservation alerts out to the campus community. These memos ask people to turn off overhead lights and use daylight or task lighting where possible and to remember to switch off equipment at the end of the day.

Money saved through these conservation efforts helps fund Penn’s purchase of pollution-free wind power.

Beginning in 2000, the University instituted two major infrastructure upgrades to help reduce and effectively manage electricity use. An electricity-use control room in the division of Facilities and Real Estate Services enables staff to monitor electricity use and make adjustments to keep the campus from reaching peak demand. The installation of a state-of-the-art chiller plant has also led to energy and dollar savings for chilled-water production and off-peak production of ice.

Originally published on June 8, 2006