ESCANABA - Bay College has been working toward reducing energy costs and increasing sustainability for years, and according to the results of a recent state energy audit, energy consumption across campus has been reduced significantly in more than 10 years.
According to Chris Williams, chief information officer and sustainability coordinator at Bay College, the college took part in a grant-funded energy audit in 2001. The college has used recommendations from the 2001 audit to improve sustainability across campus in the past 11 years. Now, a recent 2012 audit has compared Bay College's energy costs and consumption since 2001, and has determined a significant reduction in the college's consumption, ranging anywhere from 17.6 to 59.1 percent less energy per square foot depending on the building. Each of Bay College's 10 educational facilities in the audit indicate energy savings across the board, with each facility falling below the average electricity and natural gas costs compared to other buildings in Michigan of the same size and type.
"That's a significant reduction and we're just proud of it," said Williams. "We're proud of what we've done and I think that it's something the community can benefit from knowing is that when you do take the opportunity to implement some of these cost-savings and consumption reductions, there is an overall positive effect to that."
According to Ralph Curry, superintendent of buildings and grounds, many areas of improvement around campus in the last 10 years have been in lighting projects and in heating and cooling systems. He noted a substantial portion of these lighting changes made have been done in-house, further reducing the college's costs. The college has been able to take advantage of approximately $25,000 in rebates rewarded to them for energy optimization, which encourages energy efficient activities.
Bay College has also increased efficiency by upgrading boilers.
"We've gone from approximately 70 percent efficient boiler systems to 95 percent efficient boiler systems," said Curry, who noted the systems are smart and can modulate based on need.
"A substantial portion of it is probably credit to the fact that there's time clocks and timing, and monitoring of equipment so we're able to shut systems down when they're not needed," he said.
One example of this is the campus' perimeter lighting which shuts down late at night since there is no activity on campus at this time.
"We've utilized the new technology, with T8, T5, LED, induction ... types of lights," said Curry. This equates to fewer light fixtures on campus, but with higher output lighting at a lower wattage.
Williams said though the cost savings is a major part of energy improvements done on campus, the college also wants to reduce consumption from a global and environmental perspective.
"We really don't want to use more than we absolutely have to because why would we do that? We want to make sure that our consumption is at the rate that it actually needs to be and we're not consuming more than we have to," she said.
Bay College's information technology (IT) department, which is a huge consumer of electricity, has also benefitted in energy efficiency.
"As that number of devices on our electric system ... increase, we need to be more efficient about how we use them so that we're not consuming more, so that we can add but yet we consume at the same rate or less than what we have been," she said.
Staff and faculty have been encouraged to turn off computers when they leave work for the day and printers and copiers have been replaced with ones that automatically turn off or go into an 'energy saving' mode.
The college's data center has also virtualized its servers, significantly reducing the number needed, instead of having multiple individual servers that do the work.
"Before the previous way in which that was dealt with is for every service you have an individual server, and the individual server has fans spinning, so you reduce not only your energy consumption by the device, but you're also cooling less because you have less devices generating heat," said Williams, who added that there's a short payback with these investments. Bay College can reap the profits of sustainable technology and infrastructure in approximately one year.
Curry added everyone has taken ownership, pride and awareness in regard to energy efficiency around campus.
"Going green across the college also means not only high-efficient equipment, ownership and shutting off the lights, and awareness, but recycling," he said, as truckloads of paper get recycled each day.
Williams said the college has reduced a large amount of paper production by utilizing high-efficient scanners instead of making a large number of paper copies.
Bay College is also in the process of eliminating styrofoam from the campus and using plant-based products to serve food and beverages.
According to Curry, the next possible major upcoming energy efficiency project is replacing 800 light bulbs in the library with LED lighting. However, he anticipates additional energy efficient plans in the future, since the more the college saves, the more money they will have to continue efficiency projects across campus and help keep the cost of education down.
For more information on Bay College's efforts toward energy sustainability, contact Williams at (906) 217-4077 or Curry at (906) 217-4080.