Riverland implements energy efficiency upgrades; It’s the first college in the state to do so

Published 8:39 am Friday, March 9, 2018

Riverland Community College has become the first college in the state to implement significant energy efficiency upgrades through a Minnesota Department of Commerce program instituted four years ago.

Riverland was the first college to use the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program to oversee its project, which focused on energy improvements on the college’s three campuses in Austin, Albert Lea and Owatonna, including energy management, chiller and lighting systems.

The college installed LED lighting in its four interior buildings and in parking lots. Controls and lighting were retrofitted, and heating, ventilation and cooling systems were recommissioned.

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Additional sensors were installed.

The Guaranteed Energy Savings Program evaluated the technical and financial feasibility of proposals for the work and provided project technical assistance to ensure work would be successful.

The $1.54 million project completed in December is being paid for over 15 years in energy, operation and maintenance savings, guaranteed by energy services company Honeywell.

The project is expected to reduce energy use by 27 percent and result in $136,632 in yearly savings.

On the west Austin campus, faucet aerators were retrofitted and flushometers were upgraded.

Physical separators between exteriors and interiors of Riverland buildings were upgraded, including insulating, caulking and installing door sweeps to reduce air leaks.

“This Guaranteed Energy Savings Program allowed Riverland Community College to get work done that the college would not have been able to do within our normal operating budget,” said Brad Doss, Riverland Community College chief financial officer, in a press release.

This year, Riverland plans to document utility savings achieved in 2017 from the measures.

“If the college would have completed all of this work through a piecemeal approach, it would have taken years longer to get all the work done,“ Doss said.

He said a side benefit of the program was the ability to upgrade the theater lighting.

“The college doesn’t want staff to access the theater lighting often, for safety reasons, “Doss said. “Even though the theater lighting had a more than 120-year payback, the college was able to retrofit it with lower maintenance lighting and finance it through (the program), because the lower payback energy conservations measures helped pay for it.”

Riverland received a $81,500 rebate from local utility companies that went back to the school’s general fund.

In the case study, Riverland physical plant director Shawn O’Connor said “the updated building energy management system installed allows Riverland to shut down additional parts of the college when not in use, which it has never been able to do before.”

The Guaranteed Energy Savings Program is a procurement and financing mechanism that assists state agencies, local government entities, school districts and colleges in the development, implementation, measurement and verification of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Program participants can access technical assistance for each phase of the projects they undertake.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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