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April 19, 2013

APL Uses Energy Innovations and Optimizations to Boost Efficiency

APL Building 200
Building 200 is APL's first-ever Leed Gold certified building

APL's Technical Services Department (TSD) is taking a systematic approach to energy conservation as the Laboratory's facilities age—evaluating new technologies, methods, and equipment that both reduce energy consumption and save money. Novel methods of conservation are developed every day, and APL's TSD team evaluates them to determine which ones make sense to employ to optimize operations at the Laboratory. "It is important to APL to always keep its oar in the water in terms of new approaches to energy savings," says TSD's James Loesch. "We try to stay open-minded, since many of our buildings are older, and look at where we can make the most impact from a cost/benefit perspective."

A variety of energy-conservation initiatives spearheaded by TSD put APL on a track to boost its energy efficiency and potentially reduce energy costs by more than $7.2 million over the next five years. By adding new equipment, optimizing existing equipment, and working to change human behavior, APL is taking a three-pronged approach to energy-conservation initiatives on its campus, where facilities range from brand-new to almost 60 years old.

Optimizing Building Operations and Construction

APL recently developed its own Indoor Temperature Management program to shrink the Laboratory's carbon footprint and electric costs. By shutting off air handlers during evening and weekend hours at strategic locations, APL is on track to reduce both its greenhouse gases by 25,100 metric tons and its costs by more than $700,000 per year. In the first few months of the program, APL reduced its carbon footprint by about 2,000 metric tons—the equivalent of CO2 emissions from 510 vehicles. The Laboratory also installed variable frequency drives on large HVAC equipment and retrofitted lighting for additional savings.

This year alone, APL will boost its energy efficiency and save $240,000 through BGE's Smart Energy Savers program. By customizing the recent construction of Building 200 (APL's first to earn a LEED Gold rating) using state-of-the-art commercial lighting and energy-efficient building practices, the Laboratory joined with the utility and the state of Maryland to construct buildings that meet technical and scientific needs while achieving cost- and energy-saving goals. High-efficiency windows, air conditioning/heating systems, energy-efficient interior and exterior lighting, white reflective roofs, and insulation with high R-values (a measure of thermal resistance used in the building and construction industry) are just some of the cost-saving measures used in the design and construction of new APL buildings.

Adding Innovative Technology

One innovative energy-saving effort at APL is "District Utility Plant Chilled Water Optimization," a concept the Laboratory brought to Maryland by adding the first "chiller plant optimization" technology of its kind in the region. A District Utility Plant (an established concept) provides chilled water for air conditioning and hot water for heating to more than 682,000 square feet of the 2.1 million square feet on APL's main campus. APL installed novel optimization technology that increases the efficiency of the chiller plant by an estimated 35 percent. The project includes new variable frequency drives to control existing chillers, pumps, and cooling tower fans. The project's cost savings are augmented by a BGE/APL partnership initiated by the Laboratory, and could save APL more than $140,000 annually in electricity costs.

Energy Conservation Partnerships

A large part of the Lab's energy savings comes from participation in "EmPOWER Maryland," an initiative to encourage state residents and businesses to reduce energy consumption by 15 percent by 2015. To reach this goal, the Maryland Public Service Commission (MPSC) 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. APL is also partnering with the Defense Logistics Agency in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for the bulk purchase of electricity and natural gas, which helps the Laboratory purchase energy at the lowest possible cost.

"There is a delicate balance that allows organizations to conserve natural resources and save money at the same time—especially when its facilities are older," says Loesch. "Incurring costs and making investments in equipment, facilities, and processes make sense when energy is conserved and money is saved."