Going Green on Campus

The University of Iowa used a $500,000 grant from the Recovery Act to finance an implementation of Rockwell Software to help optimize energy consumption at the 1,900-acre campus.

The university wanted to improve production at each of the school’s 16 chillers, six boilers and three steam turbine units. As well as optimizing production, plant operators also planned to use metrics to measure the university’s shift to renewable energy and to optimize distribution of heat and cooling.

One of the goals in obtaining real-time metrics of production, distribution and fuel use was to match plant performance with dollars spent. “Operators use metrics to determine performance and improve plant operations,” says Zuhair Mased, associate director, utilities and energy management, for the school in Iowa City, Iowa. “Using metrics, we can translate everything in the plant to dollars.”

The implementation was part of an overall move to reduce energy demand and shift to renewable energy sources such as biomass. “The university was moving to a sustainable campus,” says Mased. “So we trained our operators to use data to see consumption and find efficiencies to reduce demand.”

Plant operators used the software to create baseline metrics to measure efficiency across the chiller and boiler network. “The baselines help us determine which boiler is more efficient to use at this time,” says Mased. “We established the baseline of normalization and use the consumption trend metrics for comparison. The operators and control engineers use the metrics to improve performance.”

Part of the improvement the university seeks is a greater use of renewal fuels. “The baseline metrics also help us determine what fuel to use,” says Mased. “We have a constant display that shows the boiler and says it’s using 60 percent biomass or wood chips.” Using metrics, the operators can track the percentage of renewable energy while also tracking emissions.

The software also provides metrics that track the cost of the plant’s distribution system. “You might make energy cheaper on one side of the campus, but you lose your efficiency when you deliver it,” says Ed Kubiak, director of business development at Rockwell Software, in Austin, Texas.

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