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Spotlight on Sustainability

Energy Efficiency Work Group

This edition of “Spotlight on Sustainability” reviews the efforts of the Energy Efficiency Work Group as members work to identify, plan, fund and implement a variety of energy-saving projects throughout the Medical Center.

Energy Efficiency at UCDHS

We tend to take energy for granted.  You come to work, flip on the lights, maybe turn on your task lights, fire up the desktop, and, now that it’s a tad chilly in the morning, perhaps you have a personal space heater under your desk.  Have you ever considered where the electricity comes from, and what it costs to operate all these things?  Your workspace is heated and cooled, but where does the heating and cooling come from?  Is the process efficient?  Can we make our energy processes more efficient?  Why do we need to consider these things?

To get us started down this path, I’m going to tell you where all of these utility services come from.  This applies only to the Medical Center; off-site locations obtain their services in a more traditional manner.

Central Energy Plant

Across 2nd Avenue from ACC and Same Day Surgery stands our Central Energy Plant, usually referred to as the “Central Plant”.  The Central Plant is the source of at least 95% of the energy used at the Medical Center.  Within the Plant is a natural gas-powered turbine using the same type of jet engine as used on the old Lockheed L-1011 aircraft.  This turbine drives a large electric generator that can deliver 24 megawatts of electricity.  The hot exhaust leaves the generator and enters the Heat Recovery Steam Generator.  The HRSG produces steam that runs all kinds of stuff, like the steam generator that can produce up to  an additional four megawatts of electricity.  The steam that runs the steam sterilizers at Central Processing originates at the HRSG, and the steam also powers absorption chillers that produce chilled water; there are also several electric centrifugal chillers at the Plant.  The chilled water, as well as the heating hot water produced at the Plant, runs in pipes throughout the Med Center to let your building’s ventilation units provide either cool air (via chilled water) or warm air (via heating hot water) to maintain a comfortable environment in your work area.

These processes, combined together, form a cogeneration plant, meaning that chilled water, hot water and steam are “cogenerated” as part of the electricity generating process.  If one didn’t have a cogen plant, they’d have an electricity generating process separate from the boiler and chiller plant.  The separate processes aren’t very efficient, but the cogeneration process is quite efficient, so that efficiency saves us quite a lot.  But, at the same time, the Plant still produces greenhouse gases, and uses a lot of natural gas.  Therefore, we are striving to reduce the load on the plant for two reasons: reduce the cost of operating the Plant, and reducing the emission of greenhouse gases so we can meet the UC-wide emission-reduction goals.

Energy Efficiency Work Group

The Energy Efficiency Work Group, a unit of the Sustainability Committee, was formed last year to plan and execute energy efficiency projects.  While the focus is on projects here at the Med Center, we’ll also review potential opportunities at off-site facilities.  Note that virtually all of our off-site facilities are leased, so energy efficiency projects have to be pursued with the cooperation and participation of the property owner, which can present a challenge.

Mike Boyd, Executive Director, Facilities Services Division, leads the Work Group, with key personnel from FD&C and PO&M making up the balance of the group.  Our role is to identify energy efficiency opportunities of a reasonable cost, with good utility rebate opportunity, and a relatively low Return on Investment timeframe.  Some smaller projects are absorbed into PO&M’s operating budget, as they end up saving a good amount of maintenance and supply money.  For larger projects, we’ll be turning to Mike to work with Leadership to determine how funding can be made available.

For initial guidance in finding energy efficiency opportunities, we look to the Strategic Energy Plan, developed in 2008 by an energy consultancy which provided such plans for all UC campuses and medical centers.  It is interesting to see all of the changes, particularly in lighting retrofit strategies, that have emerged in the five years since the SEP was developed.  FD&C Manager Joel Swift has reorganized and prioritized the original list, and the Group will now evaluate the various opportunities provided, looking at cost, feasibility, energy savings and similar criteria.

The projects that are the most obvious, and easiest for the general population to understand, are lighting efficiency projects.  Many projects involve the replacement of current fluorescent lamps, which are 32 watts, with lower energy lamps, either 28 watts or 25 watts.  If you look around at current lighting, it’s pretty easy to see that most workplaces are overlit, so going to lower wattage lamps is a pretty seamless means of achieving energy use reduction.  Where areas are being completely remodeled, fluorescent fixtures will be replaced with LEDs. Most of this work will be initially be done in administrative areas, as we know we need to tread gently in patient care areas.  However, we are initiating a pilot lighting retrofit project in an outpatient clinic, ACC Cardiology.

When we look at exterior lighting, it’s pretty obvious that we are burdened by old lighting technology that is inefficient in both light quality and energy use.  We’ve already replaced existing high intensity discharge lighting in selected locations, and achieved a significant energy savings. To promote the pursuit of these savings, SMUD offers energy efficiency incentives.  For both the Broadway wallpack project and the Fleet Services Washbay retrofit project, we were able to maximize the incentives of 30 percent of the project cost.

Next up are proposed projects for lighting retrofits in Parking Structure II that will feature bilevel LED lights that idle at a low light level, then pop up to full intensity when motion is detected; two minutes later, they revert to the low light level.  One can imagine how much energy this will save.  The Group is also working on a pilot project to relamp the Broadway Building, as well as a project to relamp the Central Plant, whose lights are on 24/7.

IT has recently come on board with IT-related energy efficiency initiatives.  The current focus is on software that will power down PCs that aren't in use, which can provide a significant energy savings.