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$5 Million Energy Plan to Reap Benefits in Five Years

Scott Beebe
Scott Beebe
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Washington and Lee University's Board of Trustees has approved the issuance of $5 million in bonds to underwrite projects that will help the University reduce its energy consumption and its carbon footprint by at least 20 percent by the year 2020 as part of its Energy Master Plan. At the same time, the plan calls for the projects to pay for themselves in energy savings over a five-year period.

The $5 million is part of a total issuance by Washington and Lee of $15 million in bonds, with the balance used to address other capital needs on campus.

According to Scott Beebe, director of facilities management, the program, which he has dubbed "Five for Five," consists of 34 potential projects with a collective price tag of just under $5 million and an average payoff time of 4.97 years.

The project with the most immediate payback is retro-commissioning seven of the University's existing buildings: Elrod Commons, the new Science Center, Lewis Hall, Leyburn Library, the central heating plant, the Lenfest Center and Reid Hall.

Beebe likened the retro-commissioning to tuning a car after 50,000 miles. He said that over the years, facilities management has done a lot of maintenance but sometimes was able to make only temporary repairs. "This project will have the most immediate impact on the day-to-day lives of people using the buildings, because we'll be looking at the temperature-control systems," he said. "Most of the other projects will have a direct impact on the cost of energy, but the average person won't notice that."

The work is already underway and is being carried out by Eneractive Solutions, the university's energy consultants, who produced W&L's energy master plan. The project will cost $230,000, with a two-year estimated payback time.

Other prospective projects include solar panels to generate hot water for building use, and a collaborative-learning laboratory on the roof of Leyburn Library, where green-roof technology may be combined with wind and solar panels in a setting that will be accessible to students and faculty.

"The alternative energy that will be on display in this setting will work its way into our day-to-day classroom environment," said Beebe. "Physics and engineering students can write papers on it, and business students can research the financial side."

The largest project on Beebe's list, and one that will take about half his budget at $2.4 million, is upgrading the pneumatic controls on campus to a modern electronic system.

Beebe stressed that Five for Five is a work in progress. "It's not an exact science," he said. "It may change as we come across opportunities to go in a different direction. For example, my list shows $36,000 for new insulation jackets, but I've just met with the manufacturer, who showed me a payback time of just six months, which is fantastic. So we may end up spending $100,000 on these jackets and adjusting another project to compensate."

After adjusting the responsibilities of staff within facilities management, Beebe is now concentrating all of his time on energy projects. "This is really an awesome opportunity to be able to try and save the university the kind of money we're going to save," he said. "I'm very excited about it. Although the projects have a five-year payback, I think we can achieve this in a three- or four-year window."