Due to many energy efficiency efforts, Salt Lake Community College has reduced energy usage for all campuses every year for the past five years.
According to Mike Peterson, energy manager at SLCC, the college has installed electric vehicle (EV) stations and solar arrays, and used innovative technologies such as combined heat and power to reduce its carbon footprint.
The Jordan, Redwood and South City campuses have all been recommissioned in the past three years, according to Peterson. Recommissioning involves the improvement of existing equipment and processes — such as HVAC and lighting controls — to perform the same tasks under lower energy usage and demand. The Redwood campus recommission was acknowledged by Rocky Mountain Power, who audited the energy savings from the project and paid SLCC an incentive based on how high those energy savings were.
Peterson, who has been energy manager at SLCC since 2017, said his role at the college is to “reduce energy usage and demand which reduces cost and emissions.” He said he accomplishes this by “analyzing utility data and sub-meter data of all building and making adjustments through the development of energy efficiency projects and implementing renewable energy sources such as solar energy.”
SLCC has installed 16 new EV charging stations in the last three years, and the first solar carport on the Redwood campus was completed this past May. The solar carport — sometimes referred to as solar array — has been successful enough that the college is receiving more funding for an additional solar carport at the Jordan Campus.
“The Redwood campus solar array has a capacity of 51 kilowatts (kW) which is fed into the Academic and Administrative Building to supplement power,” Peterson said. “Since [May 2021 it] has produced close to 30 megawatts (MW) of electricity [which] is a savings of about $2,400 for the first five months.”
As of 2019, SLCC also has five solar arrays spread out across the Redwood, Miller, and Westpointe campuses with a total capacity of 926 kW, which altogether produced 589,095 kilowatt-hours (kWh) or $78,407 dollars in electricity cost savings for the year.
Peterson said the college is also currently working on a “coalition agreement between a few other Utah colleges, Rocky Mountain Power, and Solar Farm developer to build a 40 Megawatts (MW) solar array that will supplement our electricity usage.” SLCC will receive 4 MW of power, which covers most of the college’s electricity usage, and if the agreement is completed, almost 100% of SLCC’s electricity usage will be coming from a renewable source.
The agreement will take advantage of Rocky Mountain Power’s recent Electric Service Schedule 32 which, according to Utah Clean Energy, “allows large energy users like data centers to power their facilities by purchasing clean energy directly from an off-site renewable energy project and having the energy delivered through Rocky Mountain Power’s system.” This gives SLCC a discounted rate and, according to Peterson, will save the college over a million dollars over a span of 28 years starting in 2023.
Peterson said LED upgrades are the “low hanging fruit” of energy efficiency, but still especially important. Specifically at the Lifetime Activities Center (LAC), SLCC “has had an annual savings from the lighting upgrade of over 118,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) which is a cost savings of about $9,500 annually.”
SLCC determines electricity cost and savings by conducting an annual review of utility data, according to Peterson.
“Since most campuses are on one utility meter, we have sub-metered all buildings to pinpoint specific areas that need an energy efficiency focus,” he said. “Our software provides dashboards which show charts and graphs of real-time energy usage and demand and also monitors some HVAC, lighting, solar, and other equipment.”
For students at SLCC, Peterson noted how they can do their part.
“Some of the best ways to increase efficiency is replacement and maintenance of equipment,” he said. “Making sure your installed equipment is programmed and operating as intended is crucial [because] most equipment requires maintenance to maintain efficiency levels.”
Sustainability and Xeriscaping
The Sustainability Committee, which has been around in some form at the college for more than 20 years, “works to educate and empower SLCC students, staff and faculty on making choices that promote cleaner air and creating less waste,” according to its webpage. They have monthly meetings over Zoom the first Tuesday of each month at 11 a.m. Anyone is free to join the committee — SLCC students, staff and faculty.
Chris McCarty, co-chair of the Sustainability Committee, said he’s trying to put together a sustainability plan for SLCC, which “outlines a college’s or university’s overall sustainability goals and how those goals will be met.”
McCarty is also in the process of restarting the environmental club at SLCC, which hasn’t been active for several years. In order to officially start the club, they are required to have at least five people join. They currently have meetings every other Tuesday at 3 p.m. at the Redwood campus in SI-380.
“I wish we had sustainability more in our vision of the school as a part of our strategic plan,” McCarty said. “Almost everything we’ve done is student-led initiatives to try to gain traction on things, so it would be nice to have more top-down help.”
In 2020, the entire college produced 1,036,740 pounds of trash and recycled 691,651 pounds of materials, which is a diversion rate — the measurement of how much waste they are diverting from the landfill to be recycled — of 40%.
McCarty said the college is putting more of a focus on implementing xeriscaping, which is the “practice of designing landscapes to reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation.”
“We are trying to take away a lot of the grass and replace it with a natural landscape or rocks to use a lot less water,” McCarty said, noting that although xeriscaping has mostly been done on the Redwood campus so far, there are plans to also do it on the other campuses.
The Redwood, South City, Jordan and Miller campuses host several SLCC gardens, which exist to “promote sustainable gardening practices and to empower students, staff and faculty to teach our grow their own fresh produce for both themselves and the SLCC community.”