Energy Savings Work in Benson
SCU’s Utilities Department recently upgraded all of Benson Memorial Center’s lighting fixtures from incandescent or fluorescent to LED (light-emitting diode - electric lighting systems which use roughly 10 percent of the energy typically required by incandescent bulbs). The building now has 3 gas & 17 electric sub-meters to help Utilities staff accurately track energy consumption in various parts of Benson, especially the kitchen area. This idea was originally submitted as a Campus Sustainability Investment Fund (CSIF) project and augmented by a portion of the award winnings* from last fall's Fill it Forward Challenge with Hyundai. SCU students, led by Associated Student Government (ASG), put in amazing efforts to earn SCU's victory, so it makes sense to invest the grant money to reducing the energy demand of a building students frequent very often.
Aside from energy savings due to the lower-wattage light fixtures, SCU will also see savings in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) costs & maintenance. This is because LEDs do not generate heat so a building HVAC system will not have to condition as much with typical lighting systems. Additionally, with the life of a LED being 7 to 10 years, there will be less maintenance which also translates to less waste due not having to replace the lamps as often. (As a reference, replacement of fluorescent lamps is every 3 to 4 years).
According to Kevin Jenkins, Energy Manager at SCU, the key to any energy management program is data because it helps us see not only our successes, but also our shortcomings. Data allows us to compare buildings to see differences in energy use between different buildings. It allows us to evaluate which energy measures are more effective, and to target which buildings need to be prioritized for more energy efficiency and conservation measures.
The new meters are accompanied by a Building Automation System (BAS), a very powerful diagnostic tool that enables Utilities staff to anticipate, make adjustments, and repair issues remotely. Without a BAS, air conditioning & lighting systems could be running 24/7. With it, the systems can be on a regular schedule or even a holiday schedule which ensures these energy systems are only in the “on” mode when actually being used.
What’s in store for future energy savings work around campus?
University Operations is currently evaluating 4 photovoltaic + battery storage systems, which will allow SCU to generate and store more renewable energy on site, shaving demand costs and helping the campus be more resilient in case of utility outages. Also, SCU is in the final stages of solidifying a partnership with Silicon Valley Power for a TESLA Battery Energy Storage System to replace the need for some back-up diesel generators.
Despite advances in technology, human behavior will always be a key factor in SCU’s energy usage. We all need to be aware of our energy usage and make sure we don't waste resources by leaving lights, computers, printers, and other energy-using items on when not needed. There are a lot of items today which have a sleep or energy-saving mode. Aside from saving money by using less energy, we can all improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve health and wellness for others. Check out our Energy Insights activity to explore how much energy your electric devices use, where your electricity comes from (how much is renewable?) and make connections between environmental justice and electricity.
*In addition to new building features that track energy consumption, a new Elkway water bottle filling station on the lower level east side will also be tracking the number of single-use plastic bottles avoided. The grant money from Santa Clara University's victory has been earmarked for three more filling stations planned for the 1st floor of the library, weight room of Pat Malley Recreation Center, 1st of Lucas Hall, and in Alameda Hall.
Before and after photo of LED upgrade in Campus Ministry's office lobby in Benson Memorial Center.