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Environmental Protection Agency
Presents Energy Star Award to UC San Diego

October 22, 2010

By Rex Graham

UCSD Image
UC San Diego's Highly Efficient Natural-Gas-Fired Cogeneration Power Plants Saves The University $670,000 Per Month In Energy Costs.
Credit: Rhett Miller, UC San Diego

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Oct. 21 presented UC San Diego with a 2010 Energy Star CHP Award for its high-efficiency, low-emission combined heat and power (CHP) plant that provides 85 percent of the campus’ annual electricity needs.

"EPA is proud to honor UC San Diego with a national Energy Star Combined Heat and Power Award demonstrating its leadership in energy efficiency and pollution reduction," said Amy Zimpfer, Associate Director, Air Program, EPA Pacific Southwest region.  "The university’s cogeneration plant is helping improve air quality in San Diego and reducing emissions that contribute to global climate change.  Here at UC San Diego, you not only teach sustainability and clean energy--you actually walk the talk."

Zimpfer formally presented the award in a special ceremony at UC San Diego to Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, who was joined at the ceremony by U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) and California Energy Commissioner Jeffrey Byron.

“It’s very significant to us that our central utilities plant is the venue for this wonderful award presentation by the EPA because this plant was actually the first building constructed on campus; our founders knew the importance of energy efficiency, even 50 years ago,” said Fox. “And over the past five decades, UC San Diego has become a nationally recognized living laboratory for climate change research and solutions.”

The university’s natural-gas-fired CHP plant is called a cogeneration facility because it generates electricity to run lights and equipment and captures the waste heat to produce steam for heating, ventilation and air conditioning of much of the 12.5 million gross square feet of campus buildings. The air-conditioning component includes a 3.8-million-gallon storage tank that is filled at night with cold water and used during the warmest times of the day to cool campus buildings.

With a net operating efficiency of 66 percent, UC San Diego’s CHP plant requires about 26 percent less fuel than a system composed of typical onsite thermal generation and purchased electricity, saving the university $670,000 per month in energy costs.

UCSD Image
Amy Zimpfer (right), Associate Director, Air Program, EPA Pacific Southwest region, presents 2010 Energy Star CHP Award to UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. Joining Zimpfer in a ceremony Oct. 21 at the university are (from right): Jeffrey Byron, commissioner, California Energy Commission; U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego); Fox; and John Dilliott, UC San Diego energy and utilities manager.
Credit: Francisco Arcaute

The CHP system also effectively reduces carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 82,500 tons per year, which is equivalent to the annual emissions from more than 13,700 passenger vehicles. The EPA award described the “impressively low” emission levels of nitrogen oxide pollutants as “one of the lowest levels for cogeneration in the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District.”

“This EPA award is a validation of UC San Diego’s strategy to use the latest technology to cut campus energy costs and reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Gary Matthews, vice chancellor of Resource Management and Planning. “It takes more than the latest technology to win such a great award and we couldn’t have won this honor without the talented, dedicated team that operates and manages our cogeneration plant.”

Since the EPA launched its ENERGY STAR program in 1992, it has led to greater use of energy-efficient equipment, products and practices throughout the country, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving money. In addition to UC San Diego’s efficient cogeneration plant, about 95 percent of the university’s appliances are Energy Star-rated.

UC San Diego began operating its natural-gas-fired CHP system in 2001 with two 13.5-megawatt gas turbine generator sets provided by San Diego-based Solar Turbines Inc., a subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc.

The cogeneration plant’s control room has taken on a new role as the hub of a smart microgrid, managing the cogeneration plant and 1.2 megawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity. With a $2 million grant from the California Energy Commission, UC San Diego is currently installing the world’s first microgrid master controller and related optimizer application. When fully operational, the Smart Grid will function as a virtual power plant, scheduling energy self-generation, electricity imports and electric and thermal storage while factoring in the demand load and the variable price of electricity to buy or sell.

Media Contact:
Rex Graham, 858-534-5952, ragraham@ucsd.edu


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