Energy use at LU

Matt Lineal and Kelsey Lutz

Lawrence energy use breaks down in steam and electricity. Both have problems and inefficiencies, and there are a number of ways in which the student body can improve Lawrence’s energy use.
Lawrence buys natural gas to generate steam at Physical Plant on Water Street. Annual natural gas bills are roughly $1.3 million. Steam is pumped all over campus to heat the facilities and small houses. Alexander Gym and a few other buildings farther away from Physical Plant have their own generators.
Much energy is lost as the steam crosses campus. The telltale sign of corroding, inefficient steam piping are the large patches of melted snow where adjacent areas have loads of snow. At the far reaches of campus, up to 40 percent of steam power is lost. In other words, Lawrence spends a lot of money to melt the snow with inefficient piping.
One solution to such energy transport inefficiencies would be to have houses heat water for their house individually. The test case for this solution is the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house, where a new boiler was installed over spring break. The installation demonstrated the complication of severely deteriorated piping and no design plans.
Students are capable of helping solve the energy inefficiency and waste issues at Lawrence as well. By limiting the use of room heat on warm days and not allowing the heat to escape in the winter when it is needed, overall costs can be cut. Additionally, students should communicate with the administration regarding the proper weatherization of their houses and dorms.
Many houses on campus are over 100 years old, and monthly gas bills reflect this fact. For example, Greenfire house has 12 residents and a monthly winter gas bill of roughly $1,200. That breaks down to $100 per resident a month.
Greenfire is considering sending out gas bills to small houses to convey energy use information, and to encourage conservation actions. Greenfire is also considering creating a challenge among the small houses to compete for the lowest energy impact.
Electricity is the other major category of Lawrence energy use. The university annually buys about $900,000 of electricity from WE energies. 60 percent is coal, 19 percent is nuclear, 19 percent is natural gas, and about three percent come from biomass, wind and hydropower.
The best ways to conserve energy at Lawrence include using compact fluorescent bulbs in your room and not leaving your computer on and connected all the time. Devices connected to an outlet are power vampires – they consume electricity even when they are off. Using a power strip or unplugging electronic devices are ways to avoid having power drained unnecessarily.
The library and Alexander Gym are two of the biggest electricity consumers on campus. They are enormous buildings that are lit for large parts of each day. A single floor of the library has 292 fluorescent light fixtures, which remain on during operating hours. A system of sensors would assure these lights are only on when students are present.
97 percent of Lawrence’s electricity use comes from nonrenewable, environmentally offensive sources. Lawrence could easily buy renewable energy certificates from wind or solar companies to offset some of Lawrence’s environmental impact. At other campuses, students have even paid a premium directly to the administration to fund the use of renewable energy.
Dan Meyer, Lawrence’s energy efficiency staff member, works on a broad variety of energy issues and is currently investigating using renewable resources and solar energy production at Lawrence.
Students should express their support for his work, because we are the energy users. Lawrence wastes a significant amount of our money on energy inefficiencies, and the university should continue to support Meyer’s position on campus.