Energy Institute sets out plan for local initiatives
The topic of energy conservation took center stage at yesterday’s “Energy Café” at the Busch Campus Center.
The seminar, the third in the series, hosted a panel of energy leaders from around the University, including the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group’s Energy Service Corps.
Energy Service Corps members delivered a presentation on energy efficiency and spoke about the group’s programs that aim to increase energy conservation in the immediate area.
The group condemned the widespread use of fossil fuels, claiming it is inefficient and environmentally harmful.
“Coal is a huge issue when it comes to environmental policy because the way we get coal releases high amounts of mercury and sulfuric acid, which travels into our waterways and creates acid rain,” said Kaitlin Chaves, an Energy Service Corps member.
Chaves, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said that the burning of coal is not only damaging to the environment, but its lack of efficiency also means it must be burned in mass quantities.
“It takes one pound of coal to power your TV for 4.5 hours, which is ridiculous. It’s not as efficient as it should be,” she said.
Beatrice Birrer, a Rutgers Energy Institute program coordinator, expressed her excitement for the success of “Energy Café.”
“In the United States, more than half of our electricity comes from coal, which is way too much,” Birrer said.
She brought up an idea that surfaced at an earlier “Energy Café” that is now being supported at a higher level in the University community.
“At the last meeting we had an idea for a zero-waste Rutgers day,” she said. “Now Dave Dehart with [University] Facilities is sponsoring a zero-waste ambassador program for students who want to volunteer and train to represent and educate other students.”
Frank Felder, director of the Center for Energy, Economic, and Environmental Policy at the University, gave a presentation on the smart-grid — a system that displays consumed energy levels — and long-term goals for energy efficiency.
Felder explained that the current system was not operating as resourcefully as a true smart grid would.
“The current electric power system is really a kind of a ‘dumb grid’ in the sense that we push power from a large centralized power system like a power plant to buildings like [the Busch Campus Center],” he said. “It’s really a one-way system because the grid was developed before the Internet the information technology just wasn’t there.”
Felder said there were a few steps that could bring the grid up to date and make it smarter and more efficient.
“The advancement of technology and reduction of costs we’re thinking how can we attach this one-way grid to a two-way grid both in terms of power flow and information,” Felder said.
Felder said a smart meter would make conserving energy easier for the average consumer.
“You could find out your usage of electricity from a smartphone. It would provide you that type of information through an app, so you can conserve and use energy in a more efficient way,” he said.
Felder also advocated for a system that had what he called “real-time manufacturing,” which would change the costs of storing electricity.
“There’s no more real-time manufacturing system when it comes to the electric grid. Storing electricity at a grid level, the size of a city, is way too expensive,” he said. “That’s one area in smart grid where we need more technological advancement.”
Felder said the storing and distribution of electricity is essential to the process of implementing a smart grid.
“We need to be able to store resources and use them later,” he said. “The storage of electricity and having the control system to use that storage and manage supply and demand is a huge part of the smart grid.”
Felder said there were some security issues with implementing the smart grid.
“If someone can break into that system … they can have control over every appliance within the grid,” he said.
The Energy Service Corps also made it a point to educate the public, not only through their workshops on energy efficiency, but through the weatherization of New Brunswick homes.
The weatherization process begins with an Energy Service Corps assessment of where the home saves energy, wastes energy and where energy conservation problems may occur, Chaves said.
She said Energy Service Corps members assess leaks for free and caulk cracks around doors and windows if faults are found.
Thomas Clark, the weatherization coordinator for the group, discussed the goals of the weatherization program, where the group attempts to make buildings more energy efficient using methods like window caulking. Clark said the project is well underway.
“We’ve weatherized about 20 homes this semester. We mainly do college homes, but we’re trying to get more low income homes,” said Clark, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore.