Energy Conservation at Alamo Colleges

By John W. Strybos, Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities at Alamo Colleges

(This article appears in the February, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

In August 2008, the Chancellor of the Alamo Colleges Bruce H. Leslie Ph.D. signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, as an effort to promote and transform the colleges into a climate neutral organization.  Each of the five campus Presidents has embraced the Chancellor’s commitment and begun integrating sustainability processes into the academic curriculum.  In addition to promoting educational processes that impact the environment, the Colleges have invested in numerous capital improvement projects that focus on energy efficiency, energy reduction, and sustainability.

As each campus grows, additional and alternative energy programs for power generation sources are being installed.  For example, St. Philip’s College (SPC) Southwest Campus (SWC) and Palo Alto College (PAC) each have a 1kW wind turbine generator in operation. Instructors are using these devices in their course curricula.  To educate and train students in green jobs, Alamo Colleges created the Center for Excellence at the St Philip’s College Southwest Campus location with a 400kW solar panel constructed on the roof of the main facility.  This solar panel array, shown in Figures 1 and 2, is used to provide power to the facility and instruct students.  Additional test facilities have been added such as simulated roof tops that are placed low to the ground for safety during instructional periods.

The Green Jobs Training Institute Westside Education and Training Center has been created to provide short-term training courses for workers interested in beginning a new career.  Courses are also available for personnel looking to improve their technical skills for today’s job market.  The following areas of interest are available at the training center: Building Performance and Energy Retrofitting; Renewable Energy; Water Conservation and Management; and Environmental Preservation. The Center was funded through federal grants from the State Energy Conservation Office, the Small Business Administration and the Department of Labor.  There were no real barriers to obtaining funding; instead the barriers Alamo Colleges had to overcome were in locating students who were interested in receiving the training due to the fluctuation of availability of jobs in this type of market.

Several energy conservation-related projects have encountered major funding barriers. These barriers have been overcome through several unique cooperative arrangements. The SWC 400 kW solar panel project was funded with $2,000,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds administered through the Texas State Energy Conservation Office (SECO). Alamo Colleges also identified an additional $2,000,000 of in kind funding for a total $4,000,000 project. The 1 kW wind turbine generator at PAC was funded through a Department of Education Grant to create a Science of Exploration Laboratory and Interpretive Center (SELIC).

The SELIC includes a botanical garden and nature center with the wind turbine generating electricity for the components of the botanical garden.

SPC has recently completed the installation of four electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. This $12,000 project qualified for a CPS Energy $8,000 rebate. A critical project now underway is detailed energy audits of all Alamo Colleges facilities. The Energy Audits are being performed by CPS Energy (CPS) as part of the Commercial Better Buildings Program funded by ARRA through the United States Department of Energy. These energy audits will identify a variety of methods that can be used by Alamo Colleges to conserve Energy. Alamo Colleges is only paying twenty per cent of the cost of the audit. The remainder costs are covered through CPS Energy and the ARRA funding.

The Alamo Colleges has been partnering with the Energy Systems Laboratory, a Division of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station, to assist in reducing current energy consumption through the Continuous Commissioning® process; identify future potential energy conservation projects; and identify renewable energy projects.  132,359 MWh (electricity usage), 173,113 kW (electric demand) and 361,502 MCF (gas use) have been saved in the past years by the Alamo Colleges, which corresponds to an accumulative energy savings of approximately $7.7 million.  Emissions reductions based on the cumulative savings are 91.38 tons of NOx, 48.78 tons of SOx and 91,218 tons of CO2.   Currently, a district-wide metering project is underway.  Electrical, gas, thermal and domestic water consumption in all district buildings have been or are in the process of being metered.  Collected data is analyzed and broadcasted from a district web-site for facility staff to monitor.

Figure 1. 400 kW Solar Array
Figure 2. Overall 400 kW Solar Array