Ohio University has committed to carbon neutrality by the year 2075. Reducing our energy consumption on campus is vital if we are to achieve that goal, as approximately 70% of carbon emissions on campus are due to electricity usage and heating/cooling buildings. More information about progress toward carbon neutrality can be found in the 2016 Climate Action Report and on our Climate webpage.
Building 22/Ridges Solar Installment, 2.34 kW
Nine 260 W (DC) solar panels were installed next to Building 22 on the Ridges by Athena Solar Panels in October, 2016. The installation project was managed by a graduate student in Environmental Studies, Alex Burke, and data from the panels will be used in his master's thesis. Output from the array is tracked through an Enphase Enlighten dashboard..
Storage Shed Solar Installment, 61.1 kW:
This project was completed in 2012 and included: the installation of a 61.1 kW photovoltaic array by Dove Tail Solar and Wind on the roof of the storage shed adjacent to the Lausche Heating Plant; the installation of safety rails; and dedicated access to the roof in order to accommodate equipment maintenance. An architectural and engineering analysis concluded that structural upgrades to the storage shed were unnecessary. Output from the array is monitored through a sub-meter that is available for use for educational purposes.
Compost Facility Solar, 41.1 kW:
Ohio University is home to the largest in-vessel compost system at any college or university in the nation. There are currently 41.1 kW of photovoltaic panels at the Compost Facility. A 10kW system was installed in 2008 by Dovetail Solar and Wind, and a 31.1kW system was installed in 2012. The compost facility also has Solar Thermal mounted on the roof of the second building. The Solar Thermal system heats the greywater used to clean the compost bins. Output from the arrays is hand tracked daily by compost operators.
OHIO Ecohouse, 2.4kW:
The OHIO Ecohouse is a residential learning experience for off-campus-eligible students at Ohio University. A 2.4 kW was installed in 2005 by Dovetail Solar and Wind. The system is mounted on a tall frame in the yard of the Ecohouse since the house is situated in a holler and, therefore, does not have access to direct sunlight. On the opposite side of the house is a small Solar Thermal system that helps reduce the energy used for heating water for the residents. Output from the solar systems is tracked through a Lucid dashboard.
Innovation Center, 4 kW:
The Innovation Center at Ohio University has one of the oldest and the most unique solar installation on campus. In 2003, Third Sun Solar and Wind Power installed 32 UniSolar PVL 124 W thin-film laminate panels to the Innovation Center roof. The laminates adhere directly to the metal roof of the Innovation Center and are visible as a darker color in the top left corner of the roof in the picture below. Generation from this array is tracked only by occasional manual reading of the meter located in the mechanical room of the Innovation Center.
Other Solar PV systems
Two other PV arrays were installed in 2003 by Third Sun Solar and Wind Power. The West Green Chilled Water Plant has a 2.4 kW PV array and Chubb Hall has a 0.33 kW PV array. The generation from these older arrays is not currently tracked by Ohio University.
All solar PV systems at Ohio University are grid-tied.
Note: These questions were originally asked and answered for the Davidson College Energy FAQ. They were created by Claire Naisby, who was an energy manager at Davidson and is now the Building Systems Integration Manager at Ohio University.
1. Where does the electricity (kWh) at Ohio University come from?
Ohio University purchases most of its electricity from AEP Energy. AEP Energy is a Competitive Retail Electric Supplier (CRES) in Ohio. Learn about competition in retail electricity markets here. AEP Ohio provides transmission and distribution of the electricity. Ohio University also owns and operates more than 100 kW of grid-tied solar PV.
2. What is the energy resource mix used to generate Ohio University's electricity?
Ohio University purchases Green-e certified renewable energy certificates (RECs) for 50% of all electricity used on its Athens, Dublin and regional campuses. The RECs are purchased through AEP Energy and are from wind power. The other 50% of the electricity is purchased through AEP Energy from regional generation sources that use a mix of Coal fired power plants (33%), Nuclear power plants (37%), Natural Gas fired plants (25%), Wind (2.5%), Hydro (1.5%), Biomass (0.5%), and Other (0.5%) (projected data for 2017). AEP Energy's environmental disclosures which detail their generation sources can be found at this link.
3. What are the factors affecting electricity prices?
Power companies must have generation capacity equal to the maximum momentary demand of its customer base. At all other times, power companies have excess capacity. Ohio University controls a portion of its energy cost by managing its peak energy consumption by shifting loads in our West Green Chilled Water Plant; as the campus approaches its peak consumption each day, the facilities team utilizes the steam turbine chiller for as much load as possible instead of our electric chillers.
Learn more about the factors that affect electrical prices here and here. Ohio is a competitive choice state regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Learn how that affects the state's energy prices.
4. How much electricity does Ohio University use?
In the last three years Ohio University has purchased the following:
- FY2014-15: 116,205,173 kWh
- FY2015-16: 122,952,756 kWh
- FY2016-17: 119,482,084 kWh
Weather, building square footage, and energy initiatives play a role in the electricity usage at Ohio University. Please see FAQ #6 for coal and natural gas usage.
5. How is the campus heated and cooled?
The central steam plant, Lausche, houses four steam boilers that supply steam to most of the buildings on the Athens campus north of the Hocking River. The steam boilers are fueled by natural gas, and can use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel as a backup. Prior to Thanksgiving, 2015, two of the boilers were coal fired. Steam is used
to heat buildings, generate domestic hot water, run absorption chillers and a condensing steam turbine chiller, and for some cooking, steam dryers, and laboratory research.
Much of the campus is cooled by chilled water that is generated by the central chillers located adjacent to Lausche in the West Green Chilled Water Plant. Lausche houses two electric chillers and one condensing steam turbine chiller (2500 tons of cooling each: a cooling ton is equal to the amount of heat needed to melt one ton of ice in 24 hours). Our central plant delivers chilled water needed by the campus using 6 main chilled water pumps.
There are several buildings based cooling systems with their own chillers throughout campus. Some less modern buildings use window AC units.
The buildings have various kinds of Air Handling Units (AHUs) and Fan Coil Units (FCUs) and many other technologies that supply conditioned air to the occupied spaces.
6. How much coal* and/or natural gas does the heating plant purchase each year and where does it come from?
- FY2014-15: 272,365 MMBtu of coal and 572,563 MMBtu of natural gas
- FY2015-16: 48,681 MMBtu of coal and 513,527 MMBtu of natural gas
- FY2016-17: 620,680 MMBtu of natural gas
Ohio University purchases its Natural gas for Lausche from IGS Energy, a privately-held, Ohio-based corporation which delivers all of natural gas to the campus through our local distributor, Columbia Gas. Coal was purchased from Vidatt Energy, a Cincinnati-based company. Vidatt's source for coal was Sand Hills Mining, Hamden, OH.
Both coal and natural gas usage decreased significantly in FY2015-16. Coal usage decreased because it was intentionally eliminated when the steam system was switched off coal in November, 2015. Natural gas usage decreases were due to the warm winter of FY16, and to significant efforts in Facilities Management, through the Energy Infrastructure Project (EIP), to conserve energy. In FY2016-17, coal purchases and usage were zero, while natural gas usage was higher as it replaced coal usage.
*Please note that coal data can be reported as “burned” or “used”, or “purchased”. "Purchased" numbers are somewhat different than "burned" or "used" because not all purchased coal is burned or used within a fiscal year. "Purchased" numbers are derived from actual weights, while "burned" or "used" numbers are estimated.
7. Why does Ohio University not use coal for heating?
To satisfy climate action goals and an agreement with the local Sierra Club chapter, Ohio University converted from coal fired boilers to natural gas fired boilers in 2015. Natural gas fired boilers produce substantially less, about half, the carbon dioxide that is produced by a coal fired boiler of the same capacity. Ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel is used only as an emergency backup for periods when natural gas service is curtailed.
8. How is the temperature in campus buildings controlled?
Most of the academic and office buildings are controlled by an energy management and control system utilizing Direct Digital Controls (DDC). There are manual thermostats in several residence halls and independent residences. The manual controls are replaced with digital as the systems are upgraded.
The temperature of each occupied space in the buildings with DDC controls is set based on Ohio University Facilities Management set point guidelines. The energy management system maintains a balance between occupant comfort level, humidity control, and energy efficiency.
9. Which renewable energy systems are being considered for the campus?
Any and all renewable energy systems and purchases of renewable energy are being considered for the campus, including on-site and off-site solar farms, off-site wind farms, low-head hydroelectric power plants, solar thermal, geothermal systems, power purchase agreements (PPAs) and renewable energy certificates (RECs). The Sustainability Plan goal of 20% renewable energy generation by 2020 was met through REC purchases in 2015. The Sustainability and Climate Action Plans are currently being revised, and new renewable energy milestones will be outlined in the revised plans. Renewable energy systems will be evaluated for sustainability, and any chosen system will need to simultaneously benefit our campus community, the environment, and our economy.
10. Is Ohio University engaged in any ongoing energy projects?
Ohio University is always engaged in several energy projects. A few of the recent and ongoing projects are listed below:
- Sub-metering utilities at the building level. Electrical, steam, condensate, domestic water and chilled water meters projects are all underway
- Building control systems (DDC) integration and scheduling.
- Steam system shut-down. Each year in May, the steam generation and distribution system is shut down for maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. This is a yearly opportunity to practice our most important energy priority, conservation, by finding and repairing leaks and replacing inefficient equipment.
- A program for regular retro-commissioning of older buildings is in the planning stage. Buildings are currently commissioned when built or renovated, but older buildings need "tune-ups" to bring them to higher levels of energy efficiency.
- Lighting upgrades have been completed; Architecture, Design & Construction standards are being updated to reflect the most energy efficient lighting standards.
- Ohio University entered the 2016 Energy Star National Building Competition: Bootcamp! to raise awareness of energy usage and conservation on campus.
11. How can I save energy in my dorm, office, or home life?
The simplest way to save energy is energy avoidance (e.g., using natural lighting in the room instead of artificial lighting), but more tips are listed below. You can also find suggestions on the " Tips for Sustainability " page.
- Use LED bulbs instead of incandescent.
- Turn off lights when you leave a room.
- Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer.
- Do not use space heaters.
- Turn off computer monitors and/or enable sleep mode on computers if you are away for more than 20 minutes.
- Unplug all accessories including printers, speakers, and scanners when not in use.
- If you don’t need extra light while you’re working on a computer, switch off desk lamps and overhead lights.
- Consider plugging appliances into a power strip that can be easily switched off when you’re leaving the office or dorm. Some power strips can detect when appliances are not in use and switch off automatically.
- Take shorter showers.
- Ride a bike, walk, or take public transportation instead of driving a car.
- Wash only full loads of clothes and air dry your clothes after washing them. Many electrical dryers use more energy during their 45 minute cycle than your room uses in a day.
- In conditioned rooms keep windows closed, so we can help you better control the temperature and humidity in your room.
- Dress for the weather.