Energy usage on the Barton Community College is down from 2000, even though there have been additions to the campus since then, BCC Vice President of Administration Mark Dean said.
Most of the buildings on the Barton Community College campus are 50 years old, but an energy management system was installed in 1992. State and federal grants paid for 90 percent of the cost, Dean reported at Tuesday’s BCC Board of Trustees study session.
“The main purpose of the grant was to save energy,” Dean said. Years ago, someone “flipped a switch” to turn the heat in a building up in the morning and down at the end of the day. Over the years, the process has become more efficient thanks to the energy management system. It started with automatic timers and today a web station allows maintenance staff to view the system in each building and make adjustments from a remote computer.
“This building doesn’t have to run all of the time — or maybe it’s the only one running,” Dean said as he gave his report in the Seminar Room of the Fine Arts Building.
Electric use is down and gas use has stayed about the same over the years, but costs fluctuate. In 2008, the college paid $157,000 for 18,000 million cubic feet of gas; last year 13,000 mcf cost $54,000.
Using less energy doesn’t necessarily mean spending less money, but there are other forms of savings, Dean said.
Variable frequency drives
Managing the equipment that uses energy more efficiently is also helpful. Turning on the air handlers used to mean starting the motor at full power, which caused it to wear out quickly. Motors had to be replaced twice a year and belts had to be replaced quarterly.
Motors on water wells also had to be replaced often, for the same reason. They started at full power.
“Water lines broke constantly,” said Dean, whose job title used to be director of the physical plant. “I replaced a lot of pipes.”
But now those motors have variable frequency drives, which slowly speed up and slowly shut down.
The motors on the air handler now last 10 years, and the belts are now 15 years old, Dean said. As for the water lines, “the guys that replaced me don’t replace pipes anymore.”
Campus lighting is also handled more efficiently nowadays. Employees know when a building is going to be used and when there should be extra lighting in certain parking lots, such as at graduation. They can also control the temperature of the water in the swimming pool.
“We can also look downtown,” Dean said, referring to the building at 1025 Main St. in Great Bend.
“Mistakes can be costly,” Dean noted. The maintenance staff needs to know when a fan should not be pulling in outside air, and they also need to be aware of peak usage times. Most energy customers pay for the energy they use, but larger users of electricity are also charged for something called “demand.” The demand charge is based on the highest capacity the customer required during the given billing period. It is paid for the entire month, so the staff tries not to have an increase at the end of the month, and they try to offset increases in one area (such as turning on the lights at the baseball diamond) by scheduling a corresponding decrease in another area.