UCC Mainstream Online

Campus energy audit encourages changes

Jenn Abel / Mainstream
The garden was neglected over the summer leaving the Environmental Sustainability Club wanting to make improvements. “I would like to make it so that people want to go up to the garden and actually want to walk through it and like what they see,” Jasen Lynch, president of the Environmental Sustainability Club.

James Stokes / Mainstream
Jess Miller, Facilities and Maintenance director and Jim Epley, Maintenance Grounds Lead, inspect the boiler within the warehouse basement. UCC actively researches green alternatives as opportunities are presented.

Two major areas of the campus’s energy conservation practices are recycling and making energy conscious decisions geared towards efficiency, with the students also participating through the cultivation of a campus garden. According to Jess Miller, director of Facilities and Maintenance, the campus does a decent job recycling where they are able to. For example, the cafeteria recycles their oil for the use of a biodiesel company, SeQuential Pacific Biodiesel, in addition to any paper products, plastics and glass that are eligible for recycling. The paper, plastic and glass are picked up by Sunrise Enterprises, according to Miller. Any metal is taken to a local scrapyard and sold for a minimal amount of money.

“We recycle what we can and what they will accept,” Jay Ervin, sous chef and Culinary Arts instructor, said. According to Miller, the food products go through a disposal and are ground up. On the other hand, students don’t always recycle when they are able to. “I see aluminum cans thrown away in garbage cans, when there’s literally a few feet away a place where you can recycle cans,” Jasen Lynch, president of UCC’s Environmental Sustainability Club, said. In order to alleviate the problem one possibility would be to educate the students on what is and is not recyclable, “Even those ones [recycling containers] you see that have waste, paper, plastic and bottles are a little confusing to people,” Lynch said. Lynch explained that both staff and students wonder whether some products like cardboard are considered paper or waste.
Lynch thought one possible solution would be to have signs saying more specifically what items are eligible for specific categories of recycling. Additionally, he suggests something is needed to raise awareness on the impact recycling or not recycling can have.

"Anything we can't use for biochar we can be using for mulch." -Jasen Lynch: President, Environmental Sustainability Club

Besides recycling manufactured products, the campus also has a small compost operation. Because so many grass clippings are produced on campus, most of them are thrown away with the exception of the grass mowed from the track and the field behind the Tech Center, which is used to create compost. According to Miller, top soil and leaves are also occasionally added and mixed into the pile. Some of the resulting compost has been used for the student garden. The student garden has been in operation since the spring term of 2014. As of now, the garden is still recovering from being neglected over the summer because the UCC Environmental Sustainability Club was out of session. “But we are going to try to kick it up a notch this year. I would like to make it so that people want to go up to the garden and actually want to walk through it and like what they see,” Lynch said. Lynch also discussed making nice paths for the garden as well as the possibility of using either battery or solar power in the future for things like pumping water for the garden.

“The Environmental Sustainability Club does have in the works a biochar program to utilize the biomass on campus [such as trimmings from trees, and clippings from the lawn],” Lynch said. “Biochar is useful for a lot of things. You can use it for retaining water in the soil, you can use it to fertilize the soil; basically it improves the health of the soil overall.” Biochar is charcoal produced from burning plant matter, allowing it to be re-used. Miller thought that a small scale biochar program would be good for the students to participate in. On a larger scale Miller looked into a bio-boiler for the campus but after investigating it did not see it being practical for various reasons. The primary one being that it is a dirty process and requires constant supervision. “It’s not just that I have this boiler and need to feed this debris into it and keep it going. It is such a dirty process that it doesn’t burn as efficiently as you might think. You are constantly having to keep the boiler clean, punching it down and getting the sediment out of it all the time, [plus] your sensors get dirty. It is just a lot of extra work,” Miller said. Basically the boiler would require more work than it was worth in order to ensure everything worked smoothly.

As part of the Environmental Sustainability club activities, Lynch also wants to use some of the biomass on campus to create mulch , “Anything that we can’t use for biochar we can be using in our mulch,” Lynch said, “A lot of the grapes from the SOWI get dumped near the garden; it just reeks up there. We want to use those grapes to create mulch for the garden.” Lynch pointed out that the location the grapes are left currently smells so bad that you can smell the grapes just driving by.

Miller submitted a RFP (Request for Proposal) for an Energy Audit to be performed at UCC, in addition to being responsible for a performance contract to complete energy upgrades on campus. The three companies who responded are Siemens, Johnson Controls and McKinstry. After reviewing their proposal reports and their answers to a selected group of questions UCC selected McKinstry to conduct the energy audit. “McKinstry conducted a full analysis of our potential energy upgrades. They basically looked if you replace this boiler than it will cost you x number of dollars but the money you save by putting that boiler in is going to net you a certain number of dollars in time,” Miller said.

One example is if it would take ten years to recoup the cost of the boiler then that would a good purchase, but on the other hand if it would take 30 years to recoup the cost than you would be at the point of replacing the boiler. According to Miller, the campus currently uses natural gas boilers for heating and cooling of the buildings in conjunction to HVAC fans. But even though they are very solidly built, they are now reaching the end of their life and will be replaced. “We’ll go to a condenser type boiler that re-utilizes the condensation and gets that through the system. It is just much more efficient, [with] less wasted energy,” Miller said. He will be upgrading to the condenser type of boiler as he is able to afford to do so. Two additional examples of green upgrades that the campus is considering in the near future would be adding occupancy sensors to each of the rooms and upgrading the lights on campus to more efficient models. “Each of the classrooms, if people aren’t in them they’ll turn the lights off themselves,” Miller said. This would save a huge amount of money in electric costs according to Miller, and it would only cost $2,000 to $4,000 to purchase the components needed.

Miller is also concerned with upgrading other UCC lights. The security pole lights in the parking lots were upgraded from metal halides, with a lifespan of three to five years, to high pressure sodium lights. The advantages of the high pressure sodium lights is that they last longer at five years and don’t need the starter, capacitor and ballast which can take up to 20 minutes to replace, thus taking up the valuable time of the maintenance staff. Miller is also considering using LED lights in certain areas of the campus. Besides being very bright and efficient, the lights also last three to four times longer than the metal halide or high-pressure sodium lights. They have already been installed around the eaves of the Forestry building and inside the Snyder offices.

According to the Energy Audit report, by upgrading the lights on campus UCC will receive a payback of $24,027 in a 12 month period of time, although as of now only parts of the campus’s lights have been upgraded. Looking at the broader scope, if the entire proposal is followed there will be a $219,000 payback over a 20 year period with an investment of $100,000 to pay McKinstry to complete the job. In addition, UCC would need to pay for the materials to complete the upgrade which could run up to $4 million.
“When we went with this company, our intent was to follow through with everything, but we ended up in the recession and we just did not have the money to do it at the moment. So revisiting this will be something we will be doing.”

For more information on UCC’s energy conservation practices speak with Jess Miller, director of UCC’s Facilities and Maintenance.
If interested in participating in the garden, contact Lynch, through email esc.ucc@gmail.com.