Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Making Significant Gains in Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

Glenys Young

July 14, 2019

A university employee will present sustainability successes to the National Association of College and University Business Officers today.

In West Texas, sustainability is crucial. From wind to water, folks on the South Plains understand the need to be smart and creative with the sometimes-limited resources they have available.

Perhaps it should be no surprise, then, that Texas Tech University has become a leading institution in energy efficiency and sustainability. That's why the university's chief financial officer, Noel Sloan, and Carey Hewett, managing director of business services for the Operations Division and campus sustainability officer, are in Austin today (July 14) where Hewett will present Texas Tech's sustainability successes to the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO).

Water towers on the Texas Tech campus.

"I appreciate the opportunity we have to share Texas Tech's efforts in energy efficiencies with other higher-education institutions," Sloan said. "Over a multi-year period, our Operations Division has integrated the latest technology and innovative updates to our existing facilities, allowing us to significantly reduce operating costs."

Sustainability isn't merely a recent focus by any means. Texas Tech's Office of Energy Management has been measuring the results of energy reduction initiatives since 2008. Through fiscal year 2018, it has reported $18 million in energy savings. Over that same decade, the university reduced its carbon footprint by 18% even while adding 2 million square feet in campus facilities.

Typically, construction translates into increased costs because of the extra energy required to power the new buildings. But Texas Tech has actually seen a decrease in energy costs since 2016, even while adding square footage with the construction of Experimental Sciences Building II and the Charles E. Maedgen Jr. Theatre.

Texas Tech's overall Energy Use Index, which accounts for all the energy used on campus, has decreased by 37% since 2000.

"This represents energy-saving efforts across campus, even as the campus has grown," Hewett said. "Overall awareness of the energy consumed on campus and efforts to reduce Texas Tech's energy use have increased. This has resulted in improved processes, equipment and day-to-day behaviors of individuals that produce monetary savings for the campus."

Among the many examples of energy-saving improvements to the campus are more efficient air-handler scheduling; the addition of LED lighting, motion-sensing light switches and xeriscaping; metering and managing energy consumption; and efforts to reduce energy consumption at the Central Heating and Cooling Plant.

Chillers on the Texas Tech campus.

"Since the Central Heating and Cooling Plant produces heating and cooling for the majority of campus, efforts in the central plant to reduce energy consumption have a large impact on the overall energy use of the campus," Hewett noted.

In the spring of 2016, the Central Heating and Cooling Plant installed two 3,100-ton electric chillers to replace one inefficient steam-driven chiller. That relatively small change has translated into big savings.

Monetarily, the installation of an electric chiller is 38% lower than the installation of a steam-driven chiller, and maintenance costs will be 65% less over the next 30 years. From a logistical standpoint, the electric chiller only requires a 5-minute startup time instead of the standard 90 minutes for steam-driven chillers.

The electric chillers operate efficiently with a 50% reduction in water consumption and chemicals for cooling, a 66% reduction in energy use for the cooling tower fan and a 70% reduction in the overall Energy Use Index.

"Texas Tech has positioned itself to continue to save energy going forward," Hewett said. "Future efforts will only enhance the energy savings of the university. Texas Tech can be proud of its efforts to reduce energy consumption and be a good steward of its resources."

Of course, energy savings aren't the only ways Texas Tech is promoting sustainability. In efforts led by the Operations Division and University Student Housing, the university has recycled 5,340 tons of waste since 2010, saving 48,000 cubic yards of landfill space. Recycling efforts have also saved 37 million gallons of water and 2 million gallons of oil, and thousands of trees through relocation. Overall, Texas Tech sustainability efforts across campus have resulted in a bronze rating on the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System report each of the past two years.

Hewett's presentation is one of three by Texas Tech officials at this year's conference. Sloan will present on "The Power of Financial Modeling to Drive Success" later this afternoon, and Jennifer Adling, chief procurement officer, will present a session on "Managing Third-Party Risk with Contract Management."

NACUBO is a membership organization representing more than 1,900 colleges and universities across the country. It specifically represents chief business and financial officers through advocacy efforts, community service and professional development activities with a mission to advance the economic viability, business practices and support for higher education institutions in fulfillment of their missions.