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University Leads in Energy Resiliency and Sustainability Strategies

Located in Garden City, New York, Adelphi University was the first private, coeducational institution of higher learning on Long Island. It boasts Hartford and Fulbright scholars among its alumni, offers celebrated programs across a range of degree programs and has an innovative, energy management strategy focused on sustainability and resiliency.

Bob Shipley, Assistant Vice President for Facilities, has played an integral role in the university’s approach to energy for 22 years and counting. A former union electrician, Shipley went back to school at Adelphi for his bachelor’s degree, ultimately working his way up to a leadership role.

"The campus has grown leaps and bounds in my time here," says Shipley. "We have over half a million square feet of new buildings, including the current university center renovation. So obviously with those expansions, the energy demand has increased significantly."

 

A Growing Campus

Since 2002, the school has invested more than $250 million in campus improvements—from new, state-of-the-art facilities to historic renovations of structures dating back to the 1920s. New facilities include the Center for Recreation and Sports, the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center, and the Nexus Building, which houses the College of Nursing and Public Health and functions as a hub for student services.

All three of these complexes have achieved LEED Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, meaning they are among the nation’s most energy efficient facilities, using sustainable building materials and meeting top air quality standards. Both the Center for Recreation and Sports and the Performing Arts Center feature geothermal heating and cooling systems, which cut carbon emissions by about 20 percent. The Nexus Building opened in 2016 with advanced energy efficiency systems, saving the university over $1.5 million per year on electricity costs, compared to former facilities.

A number of other buildings also feature smaller-scale energy efficiencies, such as the library, which feeds its electricity load from 50 kilowatts of solar power from rooftop panels.

With an eye on energy costs far into the future, Adelphi University purchases fixed rate natural gas from Direct Energy Business, locking in the benefits of savings and budget certainty in the open energy market.

 

university classroom

 

Becoming a Leader in Resiliency

Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Northeastern U.S. in 2012, served as a clarion call for many schools to invest in energy sustainability and resiliency.

Adelphi University, with a total student body of around 8,000, continued to house some 400 students who couldn't evacuate the area during and after the storm. The university restored power within 36 hours – far sooner than the week it took to restore power to many nearby homes – thanks in large part to Adelphi's energy resiliency strategy and equipment.

"Sandy was an eye-opener for a lot of people," Shipley says. "Afterwards, I was able to leverage that to make the case for fortifying our systems."

Chief among resiliency challenges was the aging boilers in the university's central plant. Though no one knows for sure, Shipley explains that according to campus legend, two of the three boilers were World War II surplus items, originally picked up from the Navy Pier. The third boiler was installed by the physics department in the 1970s. All were nearing the end of their useful life in 2015.

To replace the aging boilers would have been a massive capital investment for the university. And Shipley knew that Adelphi's underground piping infrastructure and electric load offered the potential for a better solution: cogeneration. By installing a 2.0 megawatt combined heat and power system alongside new boilers, they could capture and reuse heat given off from the electricity generation process. The solution proved to be lower cost, higher efficiency and more resilient – a smart solution to meet the university’s expanding heating needs.

"We're solidly seeing the savings we were expecting," Shipley notes. "and we’re reinvesting them in other projects, which helps take a big deferred maintenance backlog off our books."

The $13.5 million project qualified for $2.5 million in New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) rebates, and produces average annual savings of $200,000, compared to the old boiler system.

"On a day like today, my boilers aren’t even running," Shipley proudly explains, referencing the cool autumn temperatures. "The cogeneration system is handling the heat load for the entire campus. I now have the energy resiliency to keep about 60 to 70 percent of the campus running with electricity, heat and hot water in a protracted emergency. Now that we have backup and resiliency, we're lightyears away from where we were."

 

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