Energy Reduction Goals

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 2016, UGA has reduced its statewide energy consumption per square foot by just over 20% 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 65% due to electricity consumption and 19% due to heating fuel combustion. Energy conservation and renewable energy are critical components of UGA’s Sustainability Plan.

This chart shows UGA's annual energy use intensity (EUI) for each energy utility. The consumption for each utility is expressed in British thermal units (BTU) and divided by the building square footage at the time. The data are for the Athens, Tifton,  Griffin, and Skidaway campuses.
This chart shows UGA's annual energy use intensity (EUI) for each energy utility. The consumption for each utility is expressed in British thermal units (BTU) and divided by the building square footage at the time. The data are for the Athens, Tifton, Griffin, and Skidaway campuses.

Energy Infrastructure

Electricity

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.

Solar Tracking Demonstration Site

Starting in Fall 2015 Georgia Power began construction of a 1-megawatt solar farm on UGA property adjacent to the Club Sports Complex on South Milledge Avenue, and it went live in Spring 2016. This is a collaborative research project that allows UGA students and researchers to test the effectiveness of various solar tracking methods compared to fixed orientation arrays. While Georgia Power owns the equipment and the energy it puts on the grid, UGA keeps the renewable energy credits (RECs) to count against our greenhouse gas footprint. This site contains the largest dual-axis solar array in the United States. 

Steam

It is a commonly held misconception that the steam plant generates electricity—it does not. The main UGA campus uses steam to heat buildings, make hot water, and operate some laboratory equipment. Steam is produced at the Central Steam Plant located near the intersection of Cedar St. and East Campus Road, and is distributed throughout campus via insulated underground pipes. As the steam transfers heat to wherever it is used, it condenses into hot water that returns to the steam plant to be made into steam again. 

The Central Steam Plant has four individual boilers. Three of them burn natural gas but can be switched to fuel oil (similar to diesel) if gas service is interrupted. In March 2015 the fourth boiler, a coal-fired unit from the 1960’s, was shut down for the last time. Because of efficiency upgrades to the steam system during recent years the remaining natural gas boilers were able to take on the work that the coal boiler used to do. Where the coal boiler once sat is now an electrode boiler that serves as a backup for extremely cold nights or if a fuel supply emergency occurs. 

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 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 is 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 florescent 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 dspradle@uga.edu