CampusEnergy2018: "Sharing Solutions, Sustaining Our Future"

By Peter Myers posted 03-15-2018 13:59


Peter Myers, IDEA

1.jpgConference photos Pure Light Images.

Energy levels ran high throughout the week of March 5-9 as IDEA convened its 31st Annual Campus Energy Conference, “Sharing Solutions, Sustaining Our Future” at the Hilton Baltimore in Baltimore, MD, attracting a record number of 981 participants from across North America and beyond. This record attendance brought together representatives from college and university campuses together with manufacturers, service providers, consultants and public officials, including over 340 first time attendees at an IDEA conference.  Throughout the week of workshops and technical presentations, delegates were drawn to the exhibit hall where 97 exhibitors displayed their latest products and services that are helping campus utilities meet ambitious sustainability and resiliency goals.


As in recent years, the conference began with concurrent workshops that offered opportunities for in-depth learning and information sharing. The Thermal Distribution Workshop, chaired by Gordon Rundle of Citizens Thermal, Paul Razo of Steam Distribution & Power Consulting Services and James Rosner of the University of Denver, was held Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday, attracting a record 249 participants.

The Thermal Distribution Workshop provided opportunities for more in-depth discussion on steam systems, hot water and chilled water networks.  Topics included steam main energizing and system components, roadmap for cooling system improvements, tunnel assessment best practices, and constructing a new utility tunnel on an active medical campus.  Roundtable discussions brought the workshop to its conclusion on Tuesday afternoon.

3.jpgThe Thermal Distribution Workshop, a perennial favorite at the campus conference, covered key topics of interest to campus utility personnel.

Tuesday’s Microgrid Workshop was co-chaired by Ted Borer of Princeton University and David Musto of Thermo Systems, attracting 125 participants.  More and more campuses are enhancing their thermal networks and combined heat and power systems with new microgrid technology.  The opening session explored how the Microgrid Resources Coalition could help campuses identify opportunities and overcome challenges facing microgrid deployment. Subsequent sessions highlighted efforts under way in Maryland to encourage microgrid development, microgrid case studies from Mid-Atlantic states, a new level of resiliency in the New Jersey Transit microgrid project, and commissioning challenges for a military microgrid.

2.jpgRory Spangler, energy program manager, Maryland Energy Administration, spoke at the Microgrid Workshop about the exciting work under way in his state to encourage the development of campus microgrids.


Sustainability continues to be top of mind for our campus members, and Wednesday’s opening session offered an overview of the impressive work being done on campuses across North America. Panelists shared their ideas on risk assessment, strengthening the resilience of their infrastructure, protecting data systems from cyberattacks, using alternative fuels and converting from steam to hot water. Several panelists noted the importance of engaging in dialogue with other campus departments to build greater awareness of their utility operations. They also addressed the challenges posed by student groups that are pressuring campus officials to move away from fossil fuel use, balancing that goal against the economic and operational realities of running resilient and reliable energy systems.

4.jpgThe opening panel discussion, “Sharing Solutions, Sustaining Our Future,” featured recognized campus energy leaders discussing such topics as emergency preparedness and response, cybersecurity, utility master planning and asset renewal. Panelists were (from left) Ted Borer, Princeton University; Juan Ontiveros, The University of Texas at Austin; Kent Reifsteck, University of Illinois; James Rosner, University of Denver; David Woodson, University of British Columbia; moderator Rob Thornton, IDEA; and Doug Garron, Harvard University.

A two-day, three-track technical program followed the opening session, offering more than 70 presentations covering a range of subject relevant to a system operator, engineering consultant or sustainability manager. Topics included campus master planning, decarbonizing and sustainability strategies, improving CHP performance, converting from steam distribution to hot water, low-temperature thermal networks, integration of renewable fuels, system optimization and thermal storage. A common theme throughout the presentations was best practices that can generate financial and environmental rewards for campuses and their surrounding communities.


The IDEA Campus Video Contest, now in its eighth year, continued to elicit some very creative approaches to explaining the benefits of district energy and CHP. Each year, students at IDEA member institutions challenge themselves to learn more about their campus energy systems and communicate their importance via a short video. This year’s third-place winner was Purdue University. Second place went to the University of New Hampshire, and first place was awarded to Kerry Wang from the University of Minnesota. Kerry incorporated music and dance moves into his video explaining what’s cool about district energy. All three videos are available to view on IDEA’s YouTube page.

5.jpgKerry Wang, University of Minnesota, accepts the Campus Video Contest award from Rob Thornton


Conference delegates ended their time in Baltimore with tours of the Johns Hopkins Utilities LLC South Plant, University of Maryland Medical Center Plant and Veolia Baltimore Convention Center Cooling Plant.  IDEA thanks our host organizations for opening their doors to our member attendees. 

Conference Proceedings

To view the full proceedings from the conference, including more photos from the event, click here.