Energy Efficiency

A view of some of the campus buildings in which Luther makes energy efficiency a priority.

Energy Efficiency

Investments in energy efficiency are responsible for reducing Luther's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent to date. These investments also save the college a significant sum each year in energy purchases.

Luther invested $1.5 million in energy efficiency in the 2003-2004 academic year. Borrowed funds were invested in various efficiency projects in 17 academic buildings that had an average payback of seven years. These measures included more efficient lighting, variable speed fans, motors, and pumps, as well as a campus-wide energy management system. Energy savings paid back the loan in 2011 and since then the college has enjoyed an annual $250,000 dividend. These ongoing savings have been used to fund, in part, the renovation of the Miller and Dieseth residence halls and other energy efficiency initiatives on campus.

Read on to learn more about some of the energy efficiency initiatives at Luther.

Energy Management System

In 2004, Luther College signed an energy services contract with our electric utility, Alliant Energy. Luther invested $1.5 million in various energy efficiency initiatives that had an average estimated payback of seven years. After a preliminary audit of 17 campus buildings, several potential projects with significant savings were identified and the best selected.

The installation of an energy management and control system had the most significant savings. The automated Logic building automation system controls the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC), as well as lighting systems for almost every room of every building on campus. This system enables us to schedule the heating and cooling of various rooms so we are not cooling or cooling classrooms in the middle of the night. It also gives us the ability to turn the heat down during the winter when the college is on an extended break.

Wireless capability is standard and allows monitoring of all building management functions from a single facility or remotely.

Grant-Assisted Initiatives

In the summer of 2010, Luther College was awarded $175,220 from the Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant (EECBG) program of the Iowa Office of Energy Independence. Luther used these funds to make additional investments in energy efficiency, energy metering, data analysis, and communications technology.

A total of 21 energy efficiency opportunities were identified in selected buildings (Regents, Olin, Preus and Main) and in the Korsrud Heating Plant. These measures included the installation of room occupancy sensors, day lighting controls, high-efficiency lighting, variable speed pumps, and new boiler controls. The total cost for the recommended projects was $250,440 with a combined simple payback period of 4.7 years.

Good decisions depend on good information. Thus, Luther also installed additional electric meters so that all the main campus buildings are now metered separately. In addition, grant funds were used to install steam condensate meters throughout the heating plant’s steam distribution system. Luther also purchased measurement and verification services and a web-based interactive feedback tool to communicate real time data to members of the Luther community. The total cost for these projects was $100,000. The data produced by this new metering technology helps Luther meet its goal to reduce energy consumption 2 percent per year via educational efforts focused on energy awareness and behavior modification.

Building Retro-Commissioning

In 2012-2013, Luther utilized an energy efficiency program offered by our electric utility, Alliant Energy, which is focused on improving the performance of building control technologies. Luther partnered again with Michaels Energy, a professional engineering firm in La Crosse, Wisconsin to study opportunities in several buildings on campus.

Retrocommissioning, or “existing building commissioning,” is a systematic process for identifying and implementing operational and maintenance improvements in a building to ensure continued good performance over time. The intent of the process is to optimize the performance of building subsystems as well as how they function together.

Under the terms of the energy efficiency program, Luther was obligated to implement all measures that had a combined simple payback of two years or less. In addition, Luther only had to commit to spending up to $200,000 on measures that have a combined payback of two years or less. 
Projects had to be implemented within 18 months of the study completion date. 

Michaels Energy identified several opportunities. Luther decided to invest in 12 building control measures that cost $138,374 and had an average payback of 1.1 years. These initiatives are reducing Luther’s energy consumption by 732,521 kilowatt hours and 119,863 therms each year.

Luther’s investment has already paid back and is now saving the college $129,516 dollars per year in energy costs.

Campus-wide Lighting and HVAC Study

In the spring of 2014, Luther College partnered with Michaels Energy to study opportunities to improve lighting and HVAC controls in all buildings on the Luther campus.

Michaels Energy trained Luther students and equipped them with the means to assess the following potential opportunities in academic buildings and in public spaces in dormitories:

  • Reduce over-lighting. Replace or retrofit fixtures, lamps and/or ballasts.
  • Increase the opportunity for day-lighting or reduced artificial lighting.
  • Modify switching and wiring to allow multiple lighting levels or zoned switching based on daylight availability.
  • Increase the use of day-lighting by using daylight sensors and controls.
  • Eliminate lighting usage when spaces are unoccupied by using occupancy sensors.
  • Reduce HVAC energy use when spaces are unoccupied by scheduling HVAC control by individual space, not by air handler.
  • Reduce HVAC energy use when spaces are unoccupied by tying occupancy sensors into VAV box controls.
  • Reduce HVAC energy use in variable-occupancy spaces through the use of CO2 controls.

The student researchers identified many places on Luther’s 1.4 million square foot campus where these measures could be adopted. Michaels Energy reviewed these recommendations and drafted a final list of recommended measures. In Spring 2015, Luther issued a request for proposals to implement these measures. A local firm, Novak Electric, won the bid and installed lighting controls, occupancy sensors, and other measures in (how many rooms) on the Luther campus during the summer of 2015.

Steam Heat System Insulation

Luther’s Korsrud Heating Plant produces steam that is distributed via underground pipes to heat almost all of the buildings on campus. The vast majority of this steam distribution system was installed in the 1960s and has undergone minimal change since then.

In 2014, Luther hired Iowa Insulation to study energy efficiency opportunities regarding the steam distribution system. The study revealed that the major trunk steam distribution lines are insulated sufficiently, but most of the steam condensate lines that return the cooled steam in the form of warm water to the heating plant were not insulated. In addition, significant heat was being lost at pipe junctions and other points of connection that were not insulated or under insulated.

Over the course of the 2014-2015 academic year, Luther invested $307,000 in various steam pipe insulation projects that have an estimated payback of 3.37 years. Iowa Insulation installed 922 insulation blankets, 9,382 feet of return pipe insulation, and six other non-blanket pieces of insulation equipment. These measures will save 170,173 therms of natural gas each year, which represents a 15.9 percent decrease in Luther’s annual natural gas consumption. The cost savings are projected at $92,234 per year.