I saw this item in the April edition of Campus Technology, asking Can green tech save cash? Green technology is part of the Morris culture; our green campus initiatives are a huge draw for our students. We have two wind turbines that completely power the campus when the wind blows (and the wind does blow here on the prairie) and we have a biomass facility that provides about 80% of our hot water at 80% efficiency. So this article certainly caught my eye.
From the article:
Yes, the RIO does vary based on several factors. One variable is location. Fortunately, Morris is in a great "zone" for both wind and biomass. If you go much further West into the Dakotas, you get better wind but less bio. To the East, you find more bio at the tradeoff of less wind. Here in Morris, we have the best of both: good wind, and good bio. You may know that our biomass plant is fueled by local sources (for example, corn).
The Campus Technology article recommends a few other cost-effective energy projects that may not generate green energy, but certainly can help save energy:
Replacing lightbulbs, repairs on HVAC systems, etc. The ROI can be less than a year in some cases, but generally within three or four years.
Watch your data center
With its racks of juice-sucking computer servers, it's a prime candidate for conservation measures. While new university data centers are usually energy efficient, the same cannot be said for their predecessors. Where possible, install energy monitors to understand where you are consuming the most energy. Any talk of a data center upgrade, though, should also contemplate outsourcing the entire operation to the cloud.
Look to green power
Many utilities nationwide offer one or more green power options, allowing customers to specify where their electricity comes from. The biggest benefit of renewables like solar and wind is that universities can enter into long-term deals that hedge against future price hikes.
Green Revolving Funds
An innovative way for colleges and universities to finance green infrastructure projects is through green revolving funds. As the name implies, a GRF is a pot of money set aside to finance energy-saving initiatives. The savings replenish the fund, enabling it to finance more projects.
Plan for the future
To those people who aren't doing anything, it's time to do it. We may see some sort of carbon tax within five years. "When the carbon tax comes, you'll be really sorry you didn't do energy-conservation measures years ago."