Ohio State University: Ohio State plans new round of energy efficiency projects

The Ohio State University plans to start work on more than $44 million in energy system improvements.

The project, which will upgrade 40 academic, administration, medical, athletic and student residence buildings, is pending approval by the Board of Trustees this week. This will be the fourth of five phases of energy efficiency measures that are part of the Ohio State Energy Partners (OSEP) program.

“The framework of these optimization projects looks at each building as part of the whole energy system,” said Scott Potter, senior director of comprehensive energy management in the Office of Business and Finance. “We analyze the heating and cooling systems, the motors that might be running in the building, the ducts that are in the building, pumps – anything that has an electrical or heat load – and through that comprehensive lens ask, ‘What’s the list of everything that can be done more efficiently in this building?’”

The projects are guided by building-specific energy audits performed in 2020. Some of the construction includes: changing heating and cooling elements in campus buildings; optimizing air-handling and airflow; and upgrading fans and pumps for optimally efficient circulation.

Phase IV will also install a heat recovery chiller in the East Regional Chilled Water Plant, extend the heating hot water network in the surrounding area, and optimize the chilled water network controls.

Potter said the goal is sustainability, both environmental and economic. The projects will reduce annual energy consumption for the optimized buildings by an average of more than 25% when completed.

“I equate this to how everybody changes the light bulbs in their home, but less often do they get the caulk gun and caulk all of the holes; and the caulking is likely to save far more than the light bulbs,” he said.

Potter said Phase IV is another milestone in the progress made by OSEP. More than 100 buildings on campus have undergone some level of energy conservation measures, 40 more will undergo a similar transformation if the proposed plan is approved, and about 50 to 60 buildings would finish optimization in Phase V. In 2017, Ohio State transferred management of the systems that heat, cool and power the Columbus campus to ENGIE to operate these systems on behalf of OSEP.

All of these projects help advance Ohio State and OSEP sustainability goals, which include improving energy efficiency by at least 25% within 10 years and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

To date, Ohio State Energy Partners has made tangible progress, including:

Converting a total of 107,000 indoor light fixtures and 1,700 outdoor light fixtures to energy-efficient LED technology over the past two years.
Completing the deployment of smart energy meters on campus – now totaling more than 750 electricty, natural gas, steam and chilled water meters – which are linked to a custom-built Digital Platform. This system will allow ENGIE and Ohio State to monitor the utility system infrastructure and energy consumption throughout campus.
Making infrastructure improvements to support utility systems for facilities around the Oval, within the Arts District and for health sciences facilities.
“From the larger perspective, this is the economical thing to do, but it’s also the right thing to do,” Potter said.