Denison explores new energy practices and techniques

CASEY TRIMM – Going green, Big Red style. This past year, Denison has been exploring the possible improvements that can be made on campus in order to become more sustainable, particularly with energy consumption.

Denison has slowly been making these efforts over the past decade, as the school has invested $2.5 million into the Global Restoration Foundation, upgraded lighting in all campus buildings, renovated dining halls electricity use to 25% less and saved nearly $500,000 per year in utility costs through efficiency and other energy infrastructure investments.

Most recently, the 2.33 Megawatts (MW) solar array that has been operational since December 2017 is projected to offset 15% of Denison’s annual electric load, which is about 2850 MWh annual production. A megawatt hour (Mwh) is equal to 1,000 Kilowatt hours (Kwh) or 1,000 kilowatts of electricity used continuously for one hour.

The solar array now has an interactive website that students, faculty and the community can become involved with to see how much energy the array has produced to date. As part of the solar array agreement, American Electric Power (AEP) is providing real-time production monitoring of the two solar arrays near campus. The displays can be found on the interactive website specific to the arrays location, either “East of Creek” or “Recycling (Red) Barn.”

The websites present real-time information regarding the arrays’ production and impact, including the effects on the number of gallons of water and gasoline being saved, total energy produced and amount of trees that have been planted. These websites provide the community with a modern, convenient way to interact with and access energy saving information.

On top of all of these sustainability and efficiency investments, Denison is very interested in a central heating plant, whether it be through a central steam plant, distributed steam plant or central/distributed hot water loop.

A central heating plant at Denison would use natural gas as the fuel source to both create electricity with a turbine or reciprocating engine and then use the waste heat from that process to heat our buildings.

The plant could potentially reduce campus emissions, upgrade campus heating and electricity delivery, provide low cost electrical power and increase campus resilience.

According to Jeremy King ‘97, Director of Sustainability and Campus Improvement, the central heating plant would, “…help Denison by reducing some or all of our electricity usage coming from the utility power grid. Electricity from the grid in our region is still predominantly generated by large coal-fired power plants. This means that CHP, even when using natural gas as the fuel source, can positively impact our carbon footprint.”

The challenge ahead involves providing heating, electricity and water to the campus community while accounting for a reliable heat system, reduced emissions, good stewardship of Denison Dollars, allowing for new technologies, managing risks and maintaining a phased implementation of improvements that minimize impacts to the campus community.

In order to ensure that the plant options check certain campus heating system goals, Director of Sustainability and Campus Improvement Jeremy King ‘97, and Director of Facilities Art Chonko and VP of Finance and Management David English are carefully considering the best option for Denison.

The CHP project scope is accounting for campus needs, potential reductions in emissions, design options based on the systems’ needed size and future goals, an intense cost-benefit analysis and future proofing and adaptability. They strongly believe that the central heating plant has the potential to address multiple critical campus needs.

Access the interactive website at: (http://s40468.mini.alsoenergy.com/Dashboard/2a566973496647334743554b772b71633d) for the “East of Creek” array and (http://s40469.mini.alsoenergy.com/Dashboard/2a566973496647334743454b772b71593d) for the “Red Barn” array.