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NEWS YOU CAN USE: University Passes the Test in Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

University of Michigan-FlintUniversity of Michigan-Flint (UM-Flint) is the fastest growing public university in Michigan. With more than 8,000 students currently enrolled, the university has a goal to grow to 10,000 students over the next 5 to 10 years. With all of this growth, you would think that UM-Flint’s energy costs would be growing as well. In fact, their energy consumption has declined over the past few years despite the growing number of students. This is due, in part, to the university’s commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability.

In the Thompson Library, 1,500 T12 fluorescent lamps and ballasts will be replaced with more energy-efficient T8 fixtures. This will result in an estimated $22,000 in annual cost savings, leading to a payback period of 10 months. The university retrofitted their Pavilion parking ramp with 140 high-efficiency, light-emitting diode (LED) lamps and is expecting a Consumers Energy rebate of $14,000. The Harrison St. parking ramp was upgraded with low-temperature T8 fixtures, resulting in over $4,000 in annual cost savings and a payback in only two months!

Consumers Energy rebates helped to defray the initial costs of the projects and quicken their payback periods. “The incentive program is certainly helping to support our continuation of energy-saving projects,” stated Tim Barden, Assistant Director for Facilities and Operations.

The university’s energy-saving measures are not limited to lighting. Variable-frequency drives were installed on two secondary chilled water pumps—along with several campus air supply units—to better match heating and cooling energy consumption with system demand. A survey of 100 steam traps found a failure rate of 25%. Each failed steam trap can cost up to $5,000 in wasted energy. Later this year, the university plans to replace four 30-year-old boilers in their central energy plant with two high-efficiency units. The project is expected to cost $2.5 million and yield a payback in six years.

“Consumers Energy has been with us every step of the way in instituting these energy upgrades,” according to Barden. “Our account manager has been very helpful in providing us with information on ways to save energy and by keeping us up to date their incentive programs.”

As an educational institution, UM-Flint’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond dollars and cents. Their Engineering Program offers courses in renewable energy and alternative energy. The Earth Resource Science Department has established a new degree program in Renewable Energy and Sustainability that focuses on environmental policy and studies.

In 2010, UM-Flint was named Consumers Energy’s Green Customer of the Year for purchasing over two million kilowatt-hours of Michigan-based renewable energy. The university has also taken advantage of a number of Consumers Energy incentive programs to upgrade their facilities for energy savings and a quick return on investment.

The proposed Urban Alternatives House—a joint collaborative between the Genesee County Land Bank and UM-Flint’s Earth and Resource Science Department—is a green renovation project located at 924 Eddy St. in Flint. The project originated with funding from Consumers Energy, as well as other local and national organizations. The mission of the project is to “educate students about ways to increase energy efficiency and live sustainably,” according to Dr. Terry Van Allen, Director of Research at UM-Flint.

UM-Flint will continue to partner with Consumers Energy to educate the public about energy efficiency. In April, Consumers Energy will exhibit at UM-Flint’s annual Earth Day celebration, talking to participants about energy efficiency and their rebate programs.

“I started at UM-Flint over two years ago and began working with Consumers Energy right away,” said Van Allen. “I look forward to working with them in the future."

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