September 19, 2019 | 47° F

University sees savings with green technology

Photo by Dennis Zuraw |

Rutgers plans to expand its 1.4-megawatt solar farm and 8-megawatt solar canopies over University parking lots, which currently generate enough carbon-free power to provide electricity to 1,000 homes.

Efforts to create a green campus have saved the University Facilities and Capital Planning group at Rutgers $41 million through their participation in environmental awareness programs.

Elizabeth Crann, consultant for University Facilities and Capital Planning, said the University has saved this money over a period of four years.

“The goal is always to save money as well as make some sort of environmental impact, and they succeeded in both since starting this partnership with [the Environmental Protection Agency],” she said.

The EPA is a national organization whose mission is to protect human health and the environment, according to their website.

Crann said University Facilities and Capital Planning was involved in multiple projects that contributed to the savings.

“One focus was helping the environmental impact in trying to offset emissions,” she said. “Some projects were geared toward waste reduction. It was an overall conservation and energy saving initiative. All different aspects of environmental and energy saving were looked at.”  

Andrew Bellina, senior policy advisor for the Environmental Protection Agency, said Rutgers is their highest green educational partner as far as carbon reductions.

“They have been and continue to be the largest partner as far as green house gas reductions,” he said. “Not only do they look at one or two items, they look at it holistically.”  

Bellina said the University works to utilize alternative energy and alternative vehicles, and employs money-saving practices like using permeable pavement, composting food and monitoring food waste.

“They’re looking at almost every activity that Rutgers does and how they could be green in doing it,” he said. “Buying products with recycled content, buying green electronics and then having them recycled, et cetera.”

Rutgers offers impressive courses on environmental science and environmental responsibility, he said. University Facilities and Capital Planning actually mirrors those teachings in practice with the way they operate their facilities.

The EPA awarded the University a certificate for participating in their Combined Heat and Power Partnership.

According to the EPA’s website, the CHP Partnership is a voluntary program that seeks to reduce the environmental impact of power generation by promoting the use of environmentally beneficial combined heat and power.

“It goes to show how Rutgers is a leader in reducing energy and increasing energy efficiency at the same time,” Bellina said.

The University is one of 494 partners that have participated in the CHP Partnership. CHP, also known as cogeneration, is an efficient, clean and reliable approach to generating power and thermal energy from a single fuel source, according to the website.

Joseph Witkowski, director of utilities operations for University Facilities and Capital planning, said about 20 programs contributed to the $41 million savings.

“We have a partnership with EPA for a cogeneration plan,” he said. “What that means is we produce our own power, and we utilize the heat that is generated from that process.”

Witkowski said a cogeneration plan is efficient because Rutgers is not only making power but also utilizing the heat that is a byproduct of that power.

“Through this process, we can reduce the cost of producing electricity and heat, and it becomes about half of what it would cost to buy it,” he said.

Beyond the savings, the CHP Partnership is a cleaner way to produce electricity because it makes use of natural gas instead of coal, which many of the larger energy producers use. In turn, he said, they are substantially lowering carbon dioxide emissions.

PSE&G’s Direct Install Program for Government and Non-Profit Facilities was also a key contribution to the University’s savings, and they offered a program to help Rutgers become more energy efficient and lower its carbon footprint, Witkowski said.

“If we could reduce energy in any building by 15 percent, we could capitalize on this program, which means they would cover 80 percent of the cost of whatever we did,” he said. “Through them, we did a lot of lighting projects.”  

Witkowsi said they look for opportunities wherever they can. They have recently put in a solar canopy on Livingston campus that generates clean energy.  

“We keep looking at it and enhancing it,” he said. “Right now we generate over nine megawatts of power through solar energy, which is lowering our carbon footprint significantly.”

Rutgers plans to continue changing lighting sources on all campuses, and he said seeing as there are virtually 1,000 buildings, there is still a ways to go.

By Connie Capone

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