campus energy systems

Around 95% of the electricity used in statewide UGA facilities is consumed at the main Athens campus, which is served by a 50-megawatt substation connected to Georgia Power. The electrical distribution network that connects the main campus buildings to the substation is owned and maintained by UGA Facilities Management Division.

Most of the main Athens campus uses steam to heat buildings, generate hot water, and operate some laboratory equipment. Steam is produced at the Central Steam Plant located near the intersection of Cedar Street and East Campus Road, and is distributed throughout campus via insulated underground pipes. The steam plant runs primarily on natural gas but can switch to fuel oil if gas service is interrupted, and there is an electrode boiler kept in reserve for extreme cold events or fuel emergencies. The steam plant efficiency improved significantly after March 2015 when the 1960’s-era coal boiler was decommissioned.

Chilled Water
The main Athens campus is divided into seven discrete chilled water districts or “loops.” In each district, buildings are connected to each other with insulated underground pipes that allow them to share cooling equipment. Some buildings have chillers that use electricity to cool water, and other buildings simply draw chilled water from the loop. Chilled water is ultimately used to cool and dehumidify air that is circulated inside buildings using large fans and ducts. One advantage of sharing equipment in this way is that it is more effective to maintain fewer, larger chillers than a large number of individual air conditioners. It also allows the chillers to run at optimum efficiency, rather than many small air conditioners running at partial load when cooling demands are low.

energy conservation

UGA has already exceeded the Governor’s Energy Challenge to reduce energy consumption per square foot by 15% by the year 2020 from a 2007 baseline. To take energy conservation one step further, UGA’s 2020 Strategic Plan calls for a 25% reduction in energy use by 2020. As of the end of fiscal year 2019, UGA has reduced its statewide energy consumption per square foot by just over 21% through investments in the campus energy infrastructure, energy efficiency upgrades in campus buildings and energy efficient design in new construction and renovations.

Energy use in UGA facilities is responsible for an overwhelming majority of our statewide greenhouse gas emissions, with 56% due to electricity consumption and 20% due to heating fuel combustion. Energy conservation and renewable energy are critical components of UGA’s Sustainability Plan.

energy initiatives

Construction Standards
The UGA Design and Construction Standards require that all new buildings on campus target a 20% reduction in energy consumption beyond standard code compliance.

LED Lighting Upgrades

Environmental Impact
For decades, most interior lighting at UGA has been tubular fluorescents. While fluorescent lighting is certainly more efficient than incandescent, it is quickly being surpassed by LEDs. In fact, LED lights are up to 80% more efficient than traditional lighting such as fluorescent and incandescent lights. In 2015 UGA began an aggressive retrofit program to upgrade older and/or high-runtime fluorescent fixtures to LED.

Economic Impact
These projects pay for themselves in about 18 months, and the energy savings are used to fund subsequent upgrades. LEDs longer lifespan also results in the added benefit of reducing maintenance costs.

Social Impact
Finally, fluorescent lamps contain mercury, so over time, this initiative will dramatically reduce the risk of accidental mercury discharges on campus due to broken lamps. LED lights are less likely to cause adverse health impacts than other high-efficiency bulbs such as compact fluorescent lights.

District Energy Plants
As of 2016, UGA has two district energy plants (DEPs). DEP-1 is located at the corner of Baxter and Newton Streets and is connected to the central chilled water district that serves the Tate Center, Miller Learning Center, Bolton Dining Commons, Brumby and Russell residence halls, the Business Learning Community buildings, and others. DEP-2 is located next to the steam plant and serves the south campus chilled water district that serves Davison Life Sciences, Miller Plant Sciences, Aderhold, Forestry, Ecology, Snelling, the Georgia Center, and others in the area. These DEPs were built to allow older, less efficient chillers in some of the buildings to be decommissioned, replacing their capacity with new, state-of-the-art chillers in a central facility. This strategy allows for additional conservation measures beyond just chiller efficiency. DEP-1 uses waste heat from the chillers to generate hot water for nearby buildings, and make-up water for the cooling tower is supplemented by harvested rainwater.

Holiday Setbacks
The UGA Facilities Management Division is working hard to conserve energy when you’re not here. Over the winter holiday break, a team of building service workers and mechanics reduce temperature settings and shut down unneeded heating and cooling systems.

Economic Impact
These efforts avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating costs each year, not to mention reduced emissions resulting from purchased electricity—the largest contributor to UGA’s greenhouse gas emissions.For additional questions regarding Holiday Temperature Setbacks contact David Spradley, Director of Energy Services, at 706-542-3093 or

renewable energy projects

1 MW Solar Tracking Demonstration Project
UGA partnered with Georgia Power to install a 1-megawatt solar array in an underutilized agricultural field next to the UGA Club Sports Complex on South Milledge Avenue. The project includes various technologies for tracking patterns of the sun to maximize the output of electricity, providing research opportunities for students in the UGA College of Engineering and others. An on-site webcam provided a time-lapse view of the construction. Construction started in 2015 and the site went active in early 2016.

Jackson Street Building 18 kW Solar Array
This 18-kilowatt solar electric system was installed in 2012 on the roof of the Jackson Street Building, which houses programs of the College of Environment & Design. Seventy-two MAGE Powertec 240 photovoltaic panels harness energy from the sun to help power lights, mechanical systems and plug loads inside the Jackson Street Building. Overall the project generates about 30,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing five personal vehicles from our local roadways every year. Economically, the panels will reduce monthly electricity bills and are estimated to pay for themselves in fourteen years. To learn more about sustainable design in the Jackson Street Building & to see real-time performance of the solar panels, visit the Jackson Street Building EcoScreen.

UGA Solar Charging Station at Herty Field
University students who decide to write their essay papers or study for final exams outside no longer have to worry about losing power, thanks to a solar-powered charging station across from Herty Field on North Campus. From afar, the charging station looks like any other wooden table topped with a canopy, but, instead of canvas, the canopy is constructed of solar panels. The ConnecTable is capable of charging between 75 and 150 mobile devices a day, even on cloudy days, with the use of a 530-watt solar array and 225 amp-hour gel cell battery. Installed by the UGA Grounds Department in 2015.

UGArden Solar Array
A free-standing solar array with eight solar panels helps to power a farm building and charge an electric vehicle at the UGArden Teaching & Demonstration Farm. The project was designed by a team of UGA Engineering students and installed in 2013 through the UGA Campus Sustainability Grants program.