Chair's Update 1st Quarter 2014

By Patti Wilson posted 06-25-2017 19:07


Oh it's the most wonderful time of the year ... I'm talking about the IDEA Annual Campus Conference season! For me and hundreds of other IDEA members who work in the campus environment, this is the conference for the richest program, the greatest opportunities for information exchange and the best network­ing. As Jim Adams of Cornell says, "IDEA is a fantastic place to start if you are trying to do better from a climate standpoint ... This confer­ence showcases proven technologies and is the place to be if you are an energy junkie!" I urge you to join us in Atlanta, Feb. 17-21, and see firsthand the innovative and resilient energy solutions being implemented on our campuses nationwide.

As we are seeing, the traditional utility model is shifting to microgrids and community-level distributed generation. Community lead­ers, mayors and urban planners are beginning to recognize what our university and campus energy professionals have known for decades - that investing in efficient, resilient, local energy provides enormous economic, environmental and community benefits. And, as was so elo­quently demonstrated during the recent Global District Energy Climate Awards, there is no one-size-fits-all answer in determining the optimal solution for a particular system.

A multitude of proven, sustainable district energy solutions are available and should be analyzed when considering optimization of a current system or planning a new one. These include a variety of technologies such as combined heat and power, combined heat and cooling, trigeneration and solar trigeneration. Denmark has long been a world leader for its ingenuity and forward thinking in district energy, with around 75 percent of its district heating produced utilizing CHP. The latest issue of Hot Cool magazine, published by the Danish Board of District Heating, reveals how Denmark is investigating using a surplus of almost free heat to generate cooling through absorption chillers or in combination with compressor chillers. And, in a few systems, the waste heat from the condenser can be a competitive energy source for district heating, mainly for tap water. If the district cooling sys­tem can rely on the district heating network, the need for heat rejection through cooling towers diminishes. In addition, by utilizing an aquifer thermal energy storage system, rejected heat or excess cooling can be stored for future use. The district cooling market has been relatively steady in European countries but is now growing exponentially, and they are looking to implement the most efficient systems possible.

Perhaps other countries can benefit from the community energy technologies that have been implemented by our campuses. Take Stanford University as one example. After four years of extensive research and planning, Stanford will capitalize on heating and cooling demand overlap and will collect 70 percent of campus waste heat to meet 80 percent of campus heating loads. Scaling up a heat recovery process from the individual building level to district energy application, Stanford will cut greenhouse gas emissions in half, re­duce water use by 18 percent and save $300 million over the next 35 years. The university is completely transforming its district energy system from gas-fired CHP to electricity-powered combined heat and cooling and converting its existing steam system to a more efficient hot water system - all of which opens Stanford's energy platform to future technologies and allows flexible management of the campus power portfolio. "Really what we are doing is taking what the environment gives us to become more efficient," says Joe Stagner, Stanford's executive director for sustainability and energy.

IDEA campus members have an intense commitment to continuous optimization of their energy systems. The upcoming campus conference program includes discussions on such topics as community energy, solar trigen­eration, free cooling, creative financing, water savings, microgrids and resiliency. It's not too late to register and join us in Atlanta. I look forward to seeing you there!


Patti Wilson
Chair, 2013-14

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