RRU sustainability retrofit on track to save

July 19, 2011
Amy Dove

Royal Roads University is proving that small measures add up to big savings.

Solar panels, extra insulation, lighting upgrades and more will help the university realize an estimated annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 325 tonnes and annual savings of $166,245 on the energy bills.

"We are making small technical changes that actually result in good pay savings," said Steve Grundy, vice-president academic. "We just insulated the gym and that is one of the biggest savings."

Acknowledging one of the biggest projects to-date, Bob Davidson, community energy solutions manager with FortisBC and a RRU MBA alumnus ('07), presented Grundy with a giant, reusable cheque July 12 for the 42 solar panels heating hot water for student's showers. The $25,637 donation is part of a $109,000 grant through the Public Sector Energy Conservation Agreement (PSECA).

The solar panels were installed in December 2010 and it is estimated they will save Royal Roads $4,000 a year in energy costs. They are also expected to drop CO2 emissions by 17.9 tonnes. Connecting the system to existing hot water tanks was one of the biggest upgrades on campus.

"This was a very significant project for us," Grundy said. "It supplies the hot water for the showers which is a pretty significant chunk of energy."

Bringing solar technology onto campus was an easy decision financially, he said. The technology's business case is more solid than less common green technologies and has a proven payback period. The annual savings help to defer the capital costs too, he said.

The solar panels are part of a more than $1-million comprehensive campus-wide sustainability plan also funded by the PSECA. That funding will go toward projects in most of the buildings on Hatley Park National Historic Site, lowering energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions for the university.

Retrofits, currently underway and scheduled to be completed this year, include: Air sealing throughout campus buildings; enhanced insulation; lighting upgrades; heat pump conversions; installing low flow shower heads; a new steam boiler for Hatley Castle; vending machine sensors; computer power management; and other features.

RRU and FortisBC are also discussing whether the university might be a good site for ground source geothermal energy. The buildings primarily use hot water for heating, Davidson said, making it an easy retrofit to hook onto geothermal systems. You just don't have the same opportunity with buildings wired with electrical heating, Grundy added, explaining you would have to gut the system and rebuild it.

FortisBC is looking at sites around the province, Davidson said, and if it partners with RRU the first step would be to conduct a feasibility study.

"Fortis is concentrating on energy management solutions," Grundy said. "It makes a lot of sense for us to be talking to them."

Ultimately, Royal Roads is striving to be off the grid - meaning it isn't drawing from the provincial supply of energy - but in order to get there you need to ensure the campus is operating as efficiently as possible to start, Grundy said. That's where retrofits to electrical systems, insulation, lighting, computer systems and more come into effect.