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University of Kentucky greenlights $25M energy-efficiency retrofit

The University of Kentucky has hired energy services company Ameresco to undertake a major energy efficiency retrofit over the next year across 61 campus buildings and 5.2 million square feet.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

The University of Kentucky has hired energy services company Ameresco to undertake a major energy efficiency retrofit over the next year across 61 campus buildings and 5.2 million square feet. As part of the project, the university will do the following, and more:

  • Update its lighting technology
  • Replace the heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system
  • Install soar technology

This is not an insignificant investment: it is being paid for with $25 million in bonds. But Ameresco believes that the changes can help the school save almost $2.4 million annually, which means that even in year one, it will have enough savings to pay the annual debt service for the bonds.

The relationship is structured as an energy savings performance contract, which means simply that if the university doesn't generate the guaranteed utility savings over time, Ameresco is responsible for the difference.

The retrofit is supposed to be completed by the end of 2011.

Says the University's president, Lee Todd Jr.:

"Creating a more energy-efficient campus community is something that I have championed for the past nine years. Conservation of our natural resources is not only good for our bottom line, it is good for the future strength and vitality of the Commonwealth."

I've been hearing a lot about energy efficiency projects in the higher education sector. It just makes sense, as schools try to squeeze money out of operating budgets and into academics, arts and athletics. My friend's daughter is making the green-ness of given campuses one of her selection criteria in her college search. There are a couple of lists that have identified the more aggressive universities in this regard.

As of early October, for example, the University of Pennsylvania had the distinction of being the top Green Power high-education facility in America, according to the Top 20 College & University ranking compiled by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency Green Power Partnership Program. The University of Pennsylvania uses 201.8 million kilowatt-hours of green power, mostly solar and wind, which is about 48 percent of its total electricity consumption. Green power is defined as clean energy sourced through renewable energy certifications, via on-site generation or through green power from utilities.

Here's the rest of the top five list (along with the total green power used and its percentage of total energy consumption:

No. 2 = Carnegie Mellon University (86.8 million kilowatt-hours, 75 percent) No. 3 = Pennsylvania State University (83.6 million kilowatt-hours, 20 percent) No. 4 = University of Utah (62.9 million kilowatt-hours, 23 percent) No. 5 = University of California, Santa Cruz (55 million kilowatt-hours, 100 percent)

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