Wartburg College’s $2.4 million investment in energy-savings projects thus far has reduced its “carbon footprint” by 18 percent.

Terry Rowe, sales project manager for Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management, told a Campus Sustainability Day gathering Tuesday, Oct. 25, that with 90 percent of the projects complete, Wartburg has had carbon savings equivalent to:

  • 394 cars taken off the road
  • 237 houses
  • 73,387 trees being planted

The projects have included a building automation system that turns off various utilities when not needed; implementing air conditioning in stages and coordinating usage with Waverly Light and Power to optimize use of its rate structure; restrictor valves reducing water pressure; a more efficient Luther Hall boiler and a “heat-recovery chiller” system.

Rowe said in terms of actual energy usage, the projects “have taken 1.7 megawatts off the Waverly Light and Power line,” will reduce water usage by 4.2 million gallons annually and cut natural gas consumption by 133,000 therms.

A therm is equivalent to 100,000 British Thermal Units. A BTU measures the energy required to raise the heat of a pound of water by 1-degree Fahrenheit. 

A unique concept” of the recent work, Rowe said, was the installation of the “heat-recovery chiller system.” He described it as “reverse refrigeration,” comparing it to the heat emitted by a refrigerator while it keeps contents cold.

Each person, he said, puts out 900 BTUs of heat, while there are 12,000 BTUs in a ton of air conditioning, “so every 13 people put out a ton of air conditioning. We take the thermal energy and run it in reverse.”

That reverse effect, he said, uses cold air from air conditioning in the Wartburg-Waverly Sports & Wellness to heat the pool and showers in the building.

Wartburg anticipates its $2 million investment, including a $666,000 state Office of Energy Independence grant from a federal energy program, to be paid off in eight years. Schneider Electric is guaranteeing annual savings of $270,000.

“If we don’t make that number,” Rowe said, “we’ll write a check for the shortfall,” adding, “We’ll be a partner with you for a long time.”

Rowe said the remaining work mostly includes “troubleshooting” to make sure everything is working as efficiently as possible.

“There’s more to be done,” he said. Schneider will do “continuous commissioning of energy-savings measures. … It’s like with your car. When things go wrong, you have to pull over and fix it.”

Schneider, he added, will be advising the college on “future sustainability projects,” including the possibility of wind and solar.

“We can’t rely on the old stuff, the carbon-based fuels,” he said.