Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, December 6, 2010

U-M netting big energy savings through Planet Blue

Simple acts are having profound affects at U-M when it comes to energy savings.

Recently released data from the Planet Blue Operations Team on energy savings and utility costs shows a 12 percent decrease in the amount of energy used for fiscal year 2010 in 44 campus buildings, with a total cost avoidance of almost $3.5 million annually.


Contributing to these impressive numbers are what some would call pretty simple measures, such as scheduling building fans correctly and changing to lower-wattage light bulbs. And while some major energy conservation measures also have been implemented as part of the program, it's the sum of simple and more complex that is yielding big results for the university, officials say.

"There are a lot of residual effects in a building when fans don't have to run all of the time," says Jim Almashy, energy conservation engineer for LSA. "Scheduling fans to only run on certain days and at certain times impacts not only utility costs, but it can extend the life of building systems."

At the Angell Hall Complex, revised fan scheduling along with other energy-savings projects led to an overall energy usage decrease of 24 percent during FY 2010, with a total cost avoidance of $334,000. At the Medical Science Unit II building, fan scheduling was part of a comprehensive set of energy-reduction programs that delivered a 22 percent decrease in energy use with a corresponding cost avoidance of $619,000 per year. With the university spending nearly $115 million annually on utilities, savings like these are important to the campus community.

"As stewards of the university's assets, we have to continue to find ways to make our buildings operate as efficiently as possible," says Hank Baier, associate vice president for facilities and operations. "Achieving the kinds of energy savings we've seen through the Planet Blue building program is a key step in our overall operational strategy."

A recent report from University of California, Berkley on its own energy efforts cited the Planet Blue Operations program as a best practice for energy-savings efforts and engaging building occupants in the energy-saving mission. Turning off lights and unplugging cell phone chargers when not in use, and understanding thermostat controls in campus buildings are contributing to the success of the program.

"Our staff, faculty and students are more cognizant of the energy-savings efforts we've undertaken here at U-M because of the Planet Blue program," says Mark Scott, facilities manager for the Duderstadt Center. "Escalators used to run all of the time here. We rescheduled them and initially our occupants were inconvenienced, but they quickly understood why we were doing this and how much energy we're saving."

The Duderstadt Center's total energy use dropped by 12 percent during FY 2010, with a total cost avoidance of $133,000 annually, numbers Scott believes only will improve in the future.

"I don't think there is an end to what we can do in this area," Scott says.