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SPEA energy consumption research spotlights areas of usage and savings





Due to rising energy costs, researchers in the SPEA graduate program are looking for new ways to monitor and reduce energy consumption and costs on campus.

Five SPEA graduate students in V600: Capstone in Public and Environmental Affairs, Behavioral Change and Energy Conservation, a course for master’s students, participated in research on IU’s energy consumption. The students will present their findings to the Physical Plant and general public at 9 a.m. Dec. 13 in the Kelley School of Business 1040.

The students were initially contacted to evaluate and confirm findings made in the previous Integrated Energy Master Plan (IEMP), a report detailing energy consumption in several IU buildings, faculty adviser for the project Diane Henshel said.

“(The research) comes out of a desire by the Physical Plant to decrease the amount of money spent on energy, which is a huge part of the annual budget,” Henshel said. “They basically want to know what’s the ‘biggest bang for your buck’ — you want to spend the least amount and get the biggest benefit.”

As part of their research, the students were provided with a limited set of buildings where they knew energy meter data was accurate, Kristen Hackman, a graduate research participant, said.

“We talked to all 26 or so building managers, had a tour of each building with them, spoke with representatives about energy consumption patterns and how the building was used, and analyzed the IEMP,” Hackman said. “We then monitored consumption in buildings compared to the master meter and did timing for peak analysis.”

An important part of their analysis, Henshel said, dealt with peak energy usage. Peak usage detailed which hours of the day and which times of the month energy usage was highest on campus. Campus buildings’ usage was then compared to peak timing to see where peak energy costs could be offset.

“Reducing peak value in every month contributes to energy savings,” Hackman said. “Hundreds of thousands are spent per month just during peak. Roughly every month, $20 is spent per kilowatt on peak time.”

Some results of peak energy research were surprising to researchers.

“Campus peaks are from 1 to 4 p.m. or noon to 5 p.m. in expanded view,” Henshel said. “Dorms start around 3 to 4 p.m. There has always been the assumption that dorms are driving the peak, which is not true. Classrooms seem to follow peak well, so that’s indicating that student use of classrooms is driving peak.”

Researchers came to several conclusions based on their review of IU’s energy consumption.

“We determined that the IEMP tended to overestimate energy use for the buildings,” Hackman said.

Hackman and her team said overestimating energy use could have negative effects.

“Overestimating decreases the ability for savings,” Henshel said.

The students further concluded science buildings were most in line with peak timing.

Hackman said he campus chilling system should be evaluated in the future, and a new classification system should be used for buildings.

“(Before), the Auditorium was considered an academic building, just like Ballantine,” Henshel said. “Clearly the use of the Auditorium is different and the energy use is going to be different. This is the first time that the classification considers energy use from a more functional perspective.”

From their research students were able to recommend a number of changes to IU’s Physical Plant to reduce energy usage and costs. These included review of the IEMP model for systematic errors ­— as researchers found a large majority of energy consumption was overestimated — and recommending the Physical Plant explore funding options that would allow departments to become more involved in their energy savings.

Hackman said she believed the research findings are integral to all IU students.

“Energy costs are rising, and this has prompted IU and other institutions that use a lot of energy to look more closely at their bills,” Hackman said. “The rising cost of energy and the amount of energy we use does increase tuition as it’s a large part of the budget.”

The research group, including Hackman and Henshel, said they felt this research can aid in creating sustainable practices for the future.

“This University’s goals are excellence in research and innovative academia,” Hackman said. “I think the innovative work done in this project encompasses the mission of this campus.”

Follow reporter Rashmika Nedungadi on Twitter @rashmika_n.

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