Penn State makes effort to conserve energy

During winter break Penn State drops the temperature settings in most campus buildings — the initiative has been conserving energy and resources for decades.

During an 11-day period starting Dec. 22 and ending Jan. 3, the building temperatures will be turned down to 50 degrees as a part of Penn State’s commitment to the Department of Energy better building challenge program.

The national program invites businesses and organizations to lower heat and dim lights during hours buildings are not in use. The program has helped to avoid 10 million tons of carbon emissions and saved $1.3 billion in energy spending since 2011, according to the Department of Energy.

Ford Stryker, associate vice president of the office of physical plant said while the better building program is new, Penn State has been lowering building heat for over 20 years.

“It’s not something we do just during the break,” Stryker said. “We lower the heat over night as well and then we turn it back up around 6 a.m. so faculty and students are comfortable when they arrive.”

Since proactively cutting the university’s energy consumption, Penn State has averaged $225,000 per year in savings. During the 2013-2014 calendar year the university saved $240,000, which is the highest amount to date.

The financial benefits have helped the university budget, but because of the nature of on-campus energy consumption the environment has benefited as well.

To meet the campus energy needs the university utilizes natural gas, oil, coal, propane and purchased electricity, according to data released by Penn State. Last year the university depended on natural gas for almost 50 percent of its fuel and that number is expected to go up.

The transition has yielded less greenhouse gas emissions over the last ten years during which time Penn State has reduced emissions by almost 20 percent.

“We’re always trying to do things responsibly and taking these steps cuts our greenhouse gas production significantly,” Stryker said. “And our efforts will continue.”

Leon Valsechi: 814-231-4631, @leon_valsechi