How Stanford's sustainability czar will mobilize the campus
Joseph Stagner became on Nov. 7 the first executive director
of the university’s new Department of Sustainability and Energy Management. He
previously was director of the utilities division at the University of California-Davis,
where he was instrumental in moving it toward energy independence. Here he answers
questions from the Stanford News Service about sustainability at Stanford.
Q: You arrived at Stanford with a mandate to make the university adopt more sustainable
practices. Where did things stand when you arrived?
A: The campus has a robust energy-management system in place and has done much
to improve efficiency in its existing buildings; it has set high efficiency standards
for new construction; and it has a great opportunity to redesign its long-term
energy supply to a greener alternative when the current cogeneration contract
expires in 2015.
Q: Have we already made the easy cuts in energy use?
A: We have done much of this already, and there is still more we are pursuing.
But we are definitely moving into larger things such as the Capital Energy Retrofit
program for major buildings, stronger design standards for new buildings and
greener energy supply to enhance our greenhouse gas reduction efforts and move
to an even higher plane of sustainability.
Q: What is being done about the buildings known as the “energy hogs”?
A: The Capital Energy Retrofit program has targeted the 12 largest energy hogs
on campus and has shown very promising results. The first project completed,
Stauffer 1, has shown a 40 percent reduction in energy use in the first six months.
Energy savings from one of the next buildings to be retrofitted, the Beckman
Center, are expected to exceed all the energy used by the new Y2E2 building.
The program is a great value, and we hope to expand it to another 25 buildings.
Q: When we talk about energy use in buildings, we tend to think heating, cooling
and lighting. But what about those fume hoods that are ubiquitous in laboratories?
A: Fume hoods are big energy hogs because they use so much conditioned air. High
air volumes are required for lab safety when the fume hoods are in use, and this
requires the heating and air conditioning systems in buildings to be a lot larger
than would otherwise be required. When the fume hoods are not in use but left
open, a tremendous amount of energy is wasted by the conditioned air flowing
through the hoods and out of the building. Fume hood efficiency, by consolidating
and reducing the number of hoods as well as practicing adept management of their
use, represents a great opportunity for reducing energy use and our greenhouse
gas emissions on campus.
Q: How are we doing at recycling and transportation?
A: Great! The campus recycles more than 60 percent of its waste, and the Transportation
Demand Management program has reduced single-occupancy vehicles in the commute
from 72 percent to 52 percent over the past five years, allowing overall traffic
into campus to remain relatively flat over that same time frame despite campus
Q: Are you excited about the work under way to develop a concrete program to
reduce Stanford’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the coming years?
A: Yes. Progress in educating the country and world about the threat from global
warming and need to act has accelerated exponentially the past year, and much
of the credit for this goes to the higher education community. Stanford’s effort
to reduce its GHG emissions will lead others to action in this great global challenge.
It’s not only our environmental responsibility to do this, but it’s also a chance
to lead by example and further the message our own Nobel Prize-winning faculty
are telling the world.
Q: What’s the biggest single source of GHG on campus?
A: Our biggest source of GHG is the Cardinal Cogeneration plant, which accounts
for 89 percent of our emissions. It is such a large source because it supplies
more than 90 percent of campus energy and is 100 percent fossil fueled by natural
gas. We have several plans under consideration for addressing this. First, we
will continue to reduce the amount of energy the campus uses through energy efficiency
in our new and existing buildings. Second, we could incorporate all or part of
the plant with greener energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal into
our energy supply portfolio. Third, we could increase the efficiency of our central
energy facility. Fourth, we will explore offseting our carbon emissions at another
location where it may be more cost-effective to do so.
Q: Is there a sliding scale of money spent versus GHG reduction?
A: Yes. Different approaches yield different returns in GHG reduction, and this
will vary at each institution because of its own unique circumstances, such as
its climate, its energy sources and its available resources. Furthermore, changing
regulations and technological innovation in response to the GHG threat will alter
approaches over time. It is therefore prudent to build flexibility into any GHG
reduction program we embark upon for the long term.
Q: Talk to us about chilled water.
A: Chilled water is used to cool buildings and research equipment. It is produced
at the Central Energy Facility using energy from the cogeneration plant and then
transported to the buildings via underground pipelines before returning to the
plant to be cooled down again. At the plant, chilled water is produced in two
ways, one that uses steam and another that uses electricity, both supplied by
the cogeneration plant. Making chilled water with steam is far less energy efficient
than from a modern electric chiller. Back in the 1980s when the cogeneration
plant was built this was not the case, and electric chillers were not nearly
as efficient; however, great improvements in that technology have occurred in
the past 20 years. This makes it more economical to use electricity to make chilled
water today and significantly reduces GHG as well. One of the larger opportunities
for reducing greenhouse gases is to stop using steam to make chilled water after
the current Cardinal Cogeneration plant contract expires in 2015.
Q: What about a Stanford wind farm in the hills or solar panels on roofs?
A: We are looking into all these options via the greenhouse gas emissions reduction
study. Our initial findings are that the Stanford campus itself is a mediocre
location for wind power and that it would be better to invest in a wind farm
in a more optimum location and bring the power to campus over the existing transmission
system. We have also determined that using solar power to produce electricity
via steam generation from parabolic-trough or dish-type mirrors is far more effective
than photovoltaic panels, given the current state of the technology. So while
we could very well invest in some small localized solar PV installations, it
is likely that we would opt for solar steam-based electricity generation for
our larger needs since it is more cost-effective.
Q: How do you manage to get a highly decentralized campus, where faculty and
staff value their independence, to adopt sustainable practices?
A: Educate people of the facts and wisdom of operating sustainably, and provide
them the tools to do it. The campus Sustainability Working Group is establishing
separate Sustainability Working Teams for each of the main elements of sustainability,
such as energy and atmosphere; procurement and recycling; water; and transportation,
among others. These teams will be composed of those on campus with the operational
know-how and authority to make change and those with subject matter expertise,
as well as a good representation of campus stakeholders on the issues. Their
charter is to research best practices in the industry, evaluate how Stanford
is doing and develop plans for continuing our advancement in sustainability.
People interested in volunteering should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What is students’ role in making the campus more sustainable?
A: Leadership. Students were—and are—one of the larger voices in pointing out
the problem and demanding sustainability from their parents’ generation. Their
concern has led to the success of the movement to bring our attention to the
challenges of global warming.Their continuing leadership in educating fellow
students and the community about these issues will play a big part in the outreach