MIT to take up energy efficiency initiatives

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Cambridge: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and utility Nstar announced an energy efficiency initiative to cut its electricity usage by 15 percent over the next three years. If met, the reduction will be 34 million kilowatt-hours, or about the same as 4,500 homes in Massachusetts in a year.

"At present the university's labs consume two to three times as much as average buildings. By closing the sash on fume hoods after experiments, students can save the equivalent of two homes' energy use, while improving safety," said Peter Cooper, the Manager of sustainable engineering and utility planning at MIT.

The total investment will be about $13 million over three years. The payback period will vary depending on the project, from less than one year to about eight years, according to MIT. The school plans on reinvesting the savings into more efficiency programs.

The efficient lighting systems will reduce half of the electricity. University will add new lighting products, such as more efficient LEDs, and use lighting controls, such as sensors to detect daylight or when a person comes into a room. The HVAC systems will also bring a huge amount of electricity reduction. MIT will put in variable-speed drives in the motors that run the air handling systems and will install a sensor system from Aircuity to monitor air humidity and carbon dioxide level, which indicates how many people are in a room.

That data, which will be fed to the Carrier building energy management system, will help determine how much conditioned air needs to be moved around. Typically, HVAC systems are designed for maximum room occupancy and run at the same rate all day and night. With the air data, the building management system can be programmed to slow down at night or to reduce the amount of air that gets pulled in if, for example, it's very humid outside.

MIT has done HVAC improvements in the past and found that about two-thirds of the energy savings come from less heating and about one-third from less electricity use by fans and motors, Although many of the efficiency savings are expected to come from upgrading to new equipment, MIT is also working on changes in behavior to cut usage.

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