Energy saving in the university environment - an example from practice

  • The topic of energy saving is very often discussed in the public these days. In connection with the crisis in the Ukraine, we are concerned about the security of supply of electricity and gas. Is there enough energy to power our industry? Can we heat our apartments and homes? Will we soon have to switch off our electrical appliances? With the Swiss Energy Strategy 2050 and the Swiss Energy Act, which was adopted in 2017, the Swiss federal government has created incentives to reduce energy consumption in buildings, transport and electrical appliances and to increase energy efficiency. The implementation of the energy strategy is a big task for the research- and teaching institutes in the university environment, which has priority. On the one hand, the institutes are often funded by the federal government and thus also have to meet higher-level energy targets, on the other hand, the universities are also very interested in keeping operating costs low despite rising energy costs. This article describes specifically how an institute that uses equipment from us deals with the issue of energy saving.

    How is energy Saving handled in practice in the university environment?

    The institute is positioned in the research in the field of plant biology, has a multi-storey building infrastructure and many facilities, from smaller climate chambers for growing seedlings, walk-in climate chambers where plants are cultivated, to seed cold rooms in which seeds of plants are stored at low humidity.

    Clitec Fachbericht Energiesparen

    How is the institute now implementing the energy strategy in concrete terms? The key thoughts on this are mentioned following:

    • It must be mentioned that the task is complex. Building infrastructure and facilities cannot be replaced from today to tomorrow with more energy-efficient equipment, but can usually only be continuously optimized with small, well-planned and gradually taken steps. The energy consumption of the infrastructure is reduced by easy to setup measures, such as turning off the lights, shutting down the computers or setting the heating to a colder temperature, but only to a moderate extent. More effective infrastructural measures, such as switching to energy-saving LED technology or automated lighting control in the corridors, are being implemented. However, these measures also cost and the university weights the benefits against the costs and then decides whether or not to implement a infrastructural measure.
    • Saving energy starts with the employees; many are not even aware of how much energy their work consumes! Information campaigns are used to sensitize employees to the issue of energy saving and the incentives coupled, as also to motivate them to participate by setting a personal example. Furthermore, practical and comprehensibly explained profitability calculations do convice.
    • The institute lists the whole equipment and finds the situational saving opportunities. A simple measure to implement is to compact or dispose of research materials that are no longer absolutely needed, such as published materials that are more than ten years old or materials for experimental approaches that can be replaced by more modern techniques. Furthermore, equipment is switched off during breaks in the experiments or at least the largest consumers such as heating or cooling circuits are reduced. Another measure is to inspect systems with heating or cooling circuits for thermal bridges, built by defective or soaked insulation, an then either to put the insulation back in order or then replace the systems with new equipment.
    • The institute analyzes processes and optimizes them. Which operations or types of equipment consume the most energy? Which materials can be reused or recycled? Until now, for example, tons of pipette tips made of a high-quality special plastic were disposed of after a single use. In the future, these will be cleaned in a newly bought washing system and reused several times. This means that less plastic is used, which improves the CO2-footprint of the research and saves quite a bit of money.

    Energy savings related to molecular plant research Equipment

    Equipment from various manufacturers is installed at the institute. Clitec is represented with phytotrons for the cultivation of plants and seed cooling cells. The institute has measured the equipment with high energy consumption and compared the measured values and found out following:

    • The energy consumption measured in real operation, for example of ultra-low temperature coolers, is usually 10 to 20 percent higher than the manufacturer’s specifications. This is explained by the fact that the manufacturers measure the devices under ideal conditions. In real operation, on the other hand, employees open doors, or then the ambient temperatures are higher, because many devices are in a room, which increases the room temperature, and in real operation, icing also occurs in the heat exchangers or on the doors. All these factors increase the energy consumption of refrigeration equipment.
    • In control loops of, for example, temperature, energy can be saved by optimizing the control parameters, such as switching on and off less frequently.
    • Devices of newest generation consume much less energy, in some cases less than half compared to older generations. If profitability is taken into account, a new equipment is usually worthwhile after just a few years. The fact that the lower energy consumption of modern systems also generates less waste heat that has to be dissipated by air-conditioning systems is taken into account in calculations of the so-called pay-back time.
    • Induction meters allow to measure the electrical power consumption without unplugging. However, they are expensive and not every organization can afford them. Putting a commercial power meter in the plug does not work for all devices, because not all devices are allowed to be unplugged. Thus the institute made do wit a clamp-on amperemeter which is clicked around the cable. The measured current consumption can be used to calculate the power and compare it with the data of other equipment.
    • Replacing the old light sources such as metal halide lamps (CMD) with more energy efficient LED technology is very worthwhile. However, converting to LED technology is not always possible because certain plant species, such as corn or sorghum, a millet grass from Africa, require a lot of heat radiation for healthy growth, which LEDs cannot provide.

    Clitec is here And HelPs You saving energy

    Clitec offers modern climate technology for the highest demands. Whether for standardized test procedures or for research purposes: The climate test cabinets and -chambers for environmental simulation can be used in a variety of applications and meet international standards, also with regard to sustainability. In addition to personal consultations, Clitec offers individual support for each customer. In connection with energy saving we carry out expertises, and in collaboration with you, we find the equipment that can be remediated and support you to find new equipment or in modernizations of your equipment. Remember, in the practice, that you may achieve the highest energy savings by optimizing usually only a few, but high energy-consuming systems.