Energy usage is the largest contributor to Penn State’s direct emissions profile. Penn State has reduced its campus greenhouse gas emissions by 42 percent since 2005. This reduction in emissions has been based on a foundation of increased levels of combined heat and power (CHP), energy conservation, and targeted renewable energy purchases.

Combined Heat and Power

The University has increased its use of combined heat and power (CHP) technology. At University Park, Penn State operates the East and West Campus CHP plants, cogenerating steam and electricity, and serving more than 200 buildings on campus. Annually, Penn State’s District Energy System produces 100% of campus steam needs and about 20% of campus electrical needs. At an average efficiency of 70%, Penn State’s District Energy system is more than twice as efficient as a typical utility power station.

Energy Conservation

Penn State focuses on energy conservation and efficiency projects in building systems and utilities. Through their Energy Program, the Office of the Physical Plant administers the behind-the-scenes mechanical, technical and operational aspects of energy efficiency and conservation in buildings and utilities. The Program consists of the following energy conserving efforts and programs:

For more than 15 years, Penn State has invested in campus-wide energy conservation measures via its Energy Savings Program, which was originally modeled after the Pennsylvania Guaranteed Energy Savings Program. To date, the program has invested over $100 million with $79 million in program funding slated in the current Capital Plan. Penn State awards performance contracts to pre-approved firms for large energy projects at any of the University locations or contributes funds that ensure energy efficiency in projects where energy is not necessarily the primary focus. In either case, the energy funds, including financing, are recovered through the avoided utility costs over a 10-year payback period. Across all campuses, the Energy Savings Program has contributed to significant greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions in line with Penn State’s GHG Emissions Reduction Goals.

Commissioning occurs shortly after a building’s completion to verify if it is functioning according to its design objectives. Implemented in 1998, the University Park Continuous Commissioning Program (CCx) focuses on the re-commissioning, retro-commissioning, and maintenance of campus buildings. The goals of the program are to reduce energy costs and optimize building performance. CCx are “corrective” projects that typically have a 5-year simple payback. The program currently includes two CCx Engineers and three 2-person technical service crews. These savings are repurposed toward other energy saving projects.

These projects are smaller in scope and are completed in E&G buildings. The average simple payback is less than five years. Solutions in the past have included:

  • Improving steam traps
  • Installing low-flow water fixtures
  • Upgrading chiller/chilled water
  • Programming thermostats
  • Reprogramming/upgrading control systems
  • Tuning up systems and equipment
  • Switching fuel selection
  • Cleaning and flushing HVAC (heating, venting and air conditioning) piping
  • Installing room occupancy sensors
  • Winter Break shutdown

In 2009, Penn State instituted an Energy Conservation Policy (AD64) that established guidelines and practices to lower the University’s energy consumption, reduce expenditures on energy, and reduce greenhouse gases. The policy is applicable to all facilities owned or leased by Penn State at all campus locations.

Approximately 350 buildings at the University Park campus are controlled via building automation systems (BAS). This functionality maintains customer environmental satisfaction by keeping the buildings’ climate within a specific range and providing lighting based on occupancy schedules, as well as monitoring system performance for device failures.

Penn State utilizes an Enterprise Energy Management Suite for tracking of energy commodity purchasing, energy and water consumption, meter data and real time energy data for a select number of buildings. This system allows for accurate tracking of energy consumption, and the data is used to inform development of Energy Program projects.