Stanford Now the Most Efficient University?
Mark Atwater posted on April 19, 2015 |
A wholesale facilities renovation sets Stanford apart in sustainability.

Stanford is known for innovation in many fields, but now they’re applying some innovative ideas to reduce their own resource usage. Stanford Energy Systems Innovation (SESI) is aimed at making Stanford one of the most efficient research universities in the world.

 The project is an extensive renovation of the university's power and HVAC systems. Even more than that, they are seeking to enhance sustainability by sourcing renewable energy and reducing water usage. The SESI project will combine solar power for electricity and more efficient waste heat recovery.

Part the measure of success is to meet and exceed California's AB 32 Global Warming Solutions Act, which sets stringent greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. SESI is expected to have no trouble there, as it will eliminate 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year (a 68% reduction); the equivalent of about 32,000 cars.

Up to 65% of the university’s electricity will come from solar power. The Stanford Solar Generating Station, to be designed and built by SunPower, is expected to provide about 50% of the university’s electricity with the remaining 15% coming from individual rooftop installations and grid electricity including a portion from sustainable sources.

A key part of increased efficiency comes from the Central Energy Facility (CEF) that now uses a heat-recovery process that is 70% more efficient than the previous, cogeneration process. The CEF will supply as much as 90% of the campus heat by capturing waste heat from cooling systems. This change also required replacing 22 miles of underground pipes and retrofitting 155 buildings.

The CEF is kept operating at maximum efficiency by a patented "model-predictive-control," which was invented at Stanford, of course.

This sustainable approach will save Stanford $420 million over 35 years when compared to a cogeneration option, and total campus water use will drop by about 15 percent. This has some obvious benefits as California is in emergency levels of drought.

The system started operation on March 24th, in conjunction with the closure of the natural gas cogeneration plant in place for the last 30 years. The previous system was highly efficient for its time, but failed to deliver the performance now possible.

The project is being supplemented by improved efficiency of all new building construction (30% beyond code) and education for users on how to conserve resources. More about the system is shown in the video below.


Images: Linda A. Cicero/Stanford University


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