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Energy efficiency investments drive public awareness and student engagement at Univeristy of Guelph 

The University of Guelph’s new $15-million thermal energy storage tank is big, bold and incredibly energy efficient. In fact, it symbolizes the University’s commitment to energy efficiency and its willingness to continue on a journey of incremental energy improvements, with all its unforeseen twists and turns.

“We’ve come a long way in ten short years,” said Dan MacLachlan, Director of Design, Engineering and Construction. “One of our earliest lighting retrofits was at our library, and a few years ago, we went back for round two, installing new lighting controls and photosensors that adjust lighting levels according to the amount of natural light that streams in through the windows. Since we started doing energy retrofits on campus, we’ve achieved electricity savings of over $9 million. It’s a significant result, made possible thanks to the Save on Energy program but also to our partners at Guelph Hydro.”

Through a commitment to sustainability that’s enshrined in its Strategic Plan, as well as the Campus Master Plan, the University has invested $1 million year-over-year in energy efficient upgrades. Total electricity and demand savings since 2004 amount to over 100,000,000 kilowatt-hours and 3.5 megawatts respectively.

Most recently, as part of a separate energy retrofit (dubbed the Green Gryphon Initiative), the University invested a further $3 million for lighting retrofits, as well as sub-meters in all of its buildings (which cover over six million square feet), HVAC modifications and an optimization of the building automation system.

This campus-wide initiative will achieve additional energy and demand savings of 8,700,000 kilowatt-hours per year and 5.0 megawatts.

The star of the Green Gryphon Initiative is the new 22-million-litre chilled water storage tank – a mammoth device that allows the University to cool the water used for air conditioning at night, shift peak demand, reduce daytime peak demand and save roughly $1.75 million in utility costs per year.

“A few years ago, our students decided they really wanted to put the University on the map in terms of sustainability and they were willing to put their money where their mouth is. In addition to doing retrofit projects that were largely behind-the-scenes, they wanted the University to invest in projects that were more visible. They voted in a $10 per semester surcharge which the University matches and those funds are earmarked for sustainability projects,” said MacLachlan. “What started as smaller retrofit work has now mushroomed into these amazing campus-wide energy efficiency projects.”

The students have spoken and what they’re saying is that energy efficiency is good business. It’s a good way to save money, it’s a great way to maximize energy resources and it’s an even better way to put money back into the teaching mission, rather than the operational mission, of the university.

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