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2019 Winter Break Curtailment Saves Energy

An AU facilities employee monitoring energy use

While the campus was quiet during its annual closure in late December, facilities staff worked tirelessly to prep the campus for curtailment. For AU, curtailment is a carefully orchestrated energy reduction strategy implemented each year by Facilities Management since 2012.

This past winter’s curtailment reduced energy consumption by 322,584 kilowatt-hours (equivalent to charging over 29 million smart phones) and 20,716 therms of natural gas (equivalent to over 12 years of energy use for a home). As a result of these reductions, AU avoided carbon emissions of 338 metric tons CO2 (equivalent to carbon sequestration through 441 acres of US forest in one year).

The curtailment process is a thoroughly planned collaboration between both the Energy and Engineering (E&E) and Facilities Operations teams. Zone technicians from Facilities Operations walked through residence halls, offices, and classrooms, and turned off lights, lowered thermostat temperatures, and unplugged extraneous equipment such as space heaters. Behind the scenes, staff from E&E used the building automation system (BAS) software to set back space temperatures to 55 degrees and verify that the building air handler units operated properly. This ensured that all unoccupied spaces were conditioned appropriately, while achieving the maximum amount of energy reduction.

As technicians walked the space and identified rooms that felt too warm or too hot, they utilized the BAS graphical images of the space to see what may need correcting. An open window or a running space heater are examples of potential issues that may affect temperatures and require the unnecessary operation of equipment.

“During energy curtailment, the Building Automation System (BAS) sends programming commands to equipment so that it can be reset to reduced energy consumption levels,” said Eddy Peng, Building Automation Technician Supervisor. “Specific energy-saving methods included resetting the air handler unit temperatures and operating times, chiller demand limiting control, and lowering distribution pump speeds.”

The winter break is the optimal period to conserve energy, as it provides a unique opportunity to reduce energy consumption while faculty, staff, and students are away.

Assistant Director of Facilities Operations Paula McGee said, “The preparations began in early October with outstanding coordination between the Building Maintenance team and the Building Automation System (BAS) shop. After the students left for the holiday break, the Building Maintenance team went into each student room (more than 2000 locations) over a four-day period, to verify all thermostats were reset correctly, windows were closed and unnecessary appliances were disconnected.”

Having completed the residential spaces, the focus shifted to staff and faculty offices. “This process was repeated the following week in classrooms and staff offices. Many thanks to everyone in FM who helped make AU a greener campus.”  

The Winter Break Curtailment would not be a success without the support of students, staff, and faculty, who ensured that devices were unplugged and windows were closed. Thank you to the AU community for another successful curtailment.