Non-Renewable Energy Consumption

Q

What are we doing as an institution to help reduce the stress on
nonrenewable energy consumption in the area of electricity? I wonder if F&A
has ever researched what it would cost to implement new resources? How much
do we spend at all the sites for electricity?

I would like to propose to NCAR, UCAR, and UOP, which are together
dedicated to understanding our changing Earth system, educating about
­atmospheric and related sciences, supporting a global community of
researchers, and benefiting society through science and technology, that we
become the change that’s needed to improve our environment by joining other
businesses that are dedicated to using renewable energy by “going solar.”
If we introduced solar panels at our lab sites, the money spent to purchase
and install the panels would eventually be repaid in savings from climbing
energy prices. And the organization could get rebates for its spending on
solar energy. Technology is getting better in this area and I am very
excited about how we could benefit from it. I think it would fall in line
with our mission statement.

Here is a link to a site that provides more information. (I am in no way
connected to Gaiam; it’s just one source, and I like what it stands for.)
http://colorado.realgoodssolar.com/index.html

Businesses large and small around the world are using solar energy,
including the White House, Vatican, National Park Service, Department of
Defense, Department of Energy, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, World
Health Organization, Discovery Channel, Greenpeace, Sony, AT&T, Disney,
Pacific Bell, and many others.

Answered on December 08, 2006

A

The majority of our efforts to minimize energy consumption are related to
Demand Side Management practices. These consist primarily of the use of our
building automation system control of our facility’s HVAC (heating,
ventilating, and air conditioning) systems. By controlling system
components based on building occupancy levels, we are able to maximize HVAC
system operations. Unfortunately, a large portion of our energy consumption
is in the form of systems that need to operate continuously and as a result
are difficult to manage.

F&A has researched some alternatives in renewable resources and we are
currently slated to use 10% wind power energy when it is available to us.
It is worth noting that wind energy will be purchased at a premium that
will impact our energy budgets.

The cost of electricity for all UCAR sites for fiscal year 2006 was $1.895
million. This high cost is largely due to NCAR’s computing systems that
contributed 37.5% of our electrical energy consumption for the fiscal year.

The Gaiam site you referenced has some good information on the benefits of
solar, but it addresses residential installations only. Typically,
commercial facility energy savings measures are considered acceptable when
they can produce energy savings at a level that will repay the investment
in eight to 10 years. Gaiam’s example of a 6.5 Kw residential installation
uses electric rates of 10 cents per Kw and has a simple payback of more
than 60 years. UCAR’s energy rates that averaged between 4.5 and 5.5 cents
per Kw for fiscal year 2006 would result in a payback period nearly twice
as long.

We in F&A and Physical Plant Services are very aware of energy costs and
the environmental impact of energy produced by fossil fuels. Your question
raises some good points, and as the cost of solar technologies comes down,
we can consider using solar energy for some of our nonessential systems,
such as those currently in use at some of the locations you have listed.
These could include the energy used to operate grounds systems and exterior
lighting. Our choices, however, will have to be based on budgetary impact
and the payback that can be realized from energy savings.

—John Pereira, Director, Physical Plant Services