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University Embarks on $8 Million Project to Increase Energy Efficiency

After more than a year and a half of planning, TU has contracted with Constellation Energy on an $8 million project to improve the energy efficiency of campus lighting. The deal was approved by the Board of Public Works late last month.

The partnership between TU and Constellation is part of an Energy Services Contractor (ESCO) arrangement made possible by Maryland Senate Bill 267, which mandates that all state agencies reduce energy consumption by 15% over 2008 baseline numbers by 2015. To help organizations achieve the mandate, the state created a program to match agencies with ESCOs and then pay up-front for energy-reduction measures implemented through them. Agencies pay the state back over time using the money saved from reduced energy costs. According to Energy Manager Steve Kolb, Towson is paying for the project through a similar set-up with the University System of Maryland (USM).

“All of the state ESCO money was used quickly and by the time we were ready to sign a contract, state funding wasn’t available, so the USM gave us the loan for the project,” Steve said.

Over the past year and a half, Steve and Director of Energy Engineering & Conservation Dennis Bohlayer worked closely with Constellation Energy to refine the proposal for new lighting fixtures in each of the 38 campus buildings receiving the upgrades. Steve used standards published by the Illumination Engineering Society to determine appropriate lighting levels for each campus application—including classrooms, offices, bathrooms, corridors, dining halls and outdoor areas—and then selected lighting fixtures and layouts to accommodate these levels. For instance, classrooms are receiving energy-efficient T5 volumetric fixtures that are 30 – 40% more efficient than the existing fixtures. The brightness and efficiency of the fixtures will allow the number of bulbs to be reduced from between three and four per fixture to only two per fixture.

“It’s tricky because we’re talking about going into every building on campus and changing the lighting,” Steve said. “Luckily, we have a good idea of what fixtures we want for the buildings since we tested those fixtures in other lighting upgrade projects when we had the opportunity. My job is to work with Constellation and ensure that TU is getting the best product for each application. We want to get it right the first time.”

The design phase of the project wrapped up this January, and the year-long construction phase is expected to begin in April. When all is said and done, the campus will have 14,000 new light fixtures, 20,000 retrofit fixtures, and 9,300 occupancy sensors which will allow the university to reduce emissions by 9,943 metric tons of carbon equivalent per year. Steve estimates that the cost savings from the project will reach more than $1 million annually.

“Once all of the fixtures are installed, we expect to reduce energy costs by between $1 and $1.5 million a year, or about 15% of our annual electric bill,” Steve said. “That alone is impressive, but on top of that we are also going to get back nearly $2.3 million in BG&E rebates when the new fixtures are installed. Overall, we expect the project to pay for itself within about 5 years—a great rate of return for this type of work.”

For additional information about Towson’s energy-saving initiatives, go to www.towson.edu/energy.

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