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September 14, 2012

APL Cuts Energy Costs Through Conservation

Building 200
Cost-saving measures in Building 200 include energy-efficient lighting and windows.

APL is on track to reduce energy costs by more than $7.2 million over the next five years thanks to a variety of conservation initiatives spearheaded by the Technical Services Department (TSD). Partnering with The Johns Hopkins University Facilities team, Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), and state and local governments, the Laboratory is implementing programs focused on sustainability while reducing energy consumption, increasing reliability, and saving money. In some cases, APL is even developing its own initiatives.

“It makes sense to conserve natural resources and save money at the same time,” says Greg Moormann, of TSD’s Energy and Utility Management team.

APL recently developed its own indoor temperature management program to reduce main campus electric costs and help shrink the Laboratory’s carbon footprint. In the first few months of the program, APL reduced its carbon footprint by about 2,000 metric tons—the equivalent of carbon dioxide emissions from 510 cars annually. By shutting offair handlers during evening and weekend hours at strategic locations throughout the Laboratory, APL is on track to save more than $700,000 per year while reducing its greenhouse gas output by about 5,000 metric tons per year as well.

Energy rebates from BGE have provided further incentives for efficiency. The Laboratory will recoup $240,000 this year through BGE’s Smart Energy Savers program. By using state-of-the-art commercial lighting and energy-efficient building practices in the recent construction of Building 200, APL joined with the utility and the state to create a facility that met its technical and scientific needs while surpassing energy-use standards. High-efficiency windows, air-conditioning and heating systems, energy-efficient interior and exterior lighting, white reflective roofs, and insulation with high thermal resistance are just some of the cost-saving measures used in the design and construction of new Laboratory buildings. APL expects a $100,000 rebate for Building 30, which was completed this summer.

More savings come from APL’s participation in “EmPOWER Maryland,” an initiative to encourage state residents and businesses to reduce energy consumption by 15% by 2015. To reach this goal, the Maryland Public Service Commission approved higher rebates for corporations from 2012 to 2014, increasing their incentives to install efficient lighting, appliances, and HVAC systems, and for new construction with these features.

Perhaps APL’s most innovative energy-saving effort is the planned District Utility Plant Chilled Water Optimization project. APL will take advantage of newly available technology and be one of the first to put it to use in the state of Maryland in its District Utility Plant, which currently provides chilled water for air conditioning and hot water for heating to buildings 12, 15, 17, 20, and 21 (about one-third of the square footage on the main campus).

The novel optimization technology will increase the efficiency of the chiller plant by an estimated 35%. The project includes new variable-frequency drives to control existing chillers, pumps, and cooling tower fans, plus the installation of advanced monitoring, control, and optimization electronics that will allow the plant to run in an “optimized” mode.

Moormann says he first began thinking about the potential use of optimization technology at the Laboratory after learning about it from technical consortiums. “We knew the District Utility Plant Chilled Water Optimization project would be ideally suited for APL because we already had the infrastructure to support it. We simply had to implement it,” he says.

The project’s cost savings, which will begin by the end of the year, are augmented by a significant BGE rebate. The project is expected to spare the Laboratory more than $140,000 annually in electricity costs.

“There is a delicate balance when you are looking at making changes for energy conservation because changes cost money,” says Moormann. “Sometimes incurring those costs makes a great deal of sense if you look at the expense from a life-cycle standpoint and not just its initial cost.” He explains that switching from a fluorescent to an LED light fixture is expensive initially, but the LED light will need to be changed only once every 10–20 years, making it a more economical long-term choice.