Holding ourselves accountable

As every American household looks to tighten budgets, conserve resources and re-evaluate their overall needs versus wants, so must Western. As Western is determining needs over wants, we are examining our building energy use. With 22 sites and over 400 buildings across Western’s territory, we strive to meet the mandate in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and other executive orders to ensure our electricity use includes renewable energy.

Conservation throughout our administrative buildings is the foundation point for us. The renewable energy efforts we recently completed includes the lighting in our Corporate Services building (both ceiling and workstations) to determine the possibility of replacing the compact fluorescent bulbs with LED bulbs.

We are also reducing the lighting in our hallways by half. The Corporate Services building HVAC system previously operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week with different temperatures set throughout the building. Now the HVAC system is set to come on at 6 a.m., Monday through Friday, providing a consistent temperature of 72 degrees and it turns off at 5 p.m.

In our Rocky Mountain Region, we have installed VFD’s (variable frequency drives) on several of our cooling tower fans and on a large air handler. This allows the fans to run at slower speeds, based on demand. We are also having some repairs made to our photovoltaic system to extend the life of this renewable resource.

We also installed LED bulbs in stairways where lighting is required 24 hours a day, seven days a week . Finally, by using insulated fabric window shades we’ve reduced solar gain in summer and optimized window insulation in winter.

In our Sierra Nevada Regional office, skylights provide natural day lighting in hallways and office space. Using photo cells that turn out the lights in areas where the skylights provide enough light is another cost saving feature.

Dimmer switches are installed on all overhead lights that are near windows. These fixtures dim the lights as outside natural light provides enough light to allow the dimming. Also using occupancy sensors on most interior offices and conference rooms turns out the lights when the rooms are unoccupied. By using lighting controls that are programmed to turn lights off increases our lighting use and efficiency.

Last year, the SN office upgraded the chillers to high-efficiency scroll chillers with on-board controls to optimize the chillers performance. We also upgraded the building Energy Management System with new controls and new sequences of operation that optimize the performance of the central heating and cooling units. The EMS also has an astronomical clock that controls the external light according to seasonal day light hours. To finish off the conservation efforts in SN we have PV (photo voltaic) panels on the roof that provide electricity to the building.

The building also has heat exchangers that capture the waste heat from our computer room cooling unit condensers and puts it into our building heating loop, which essentially provides free heating when conditions permit.

In addition to maximizing lighting efficiency, regulating the temperature and recycling heat, Western is using Windsource credits. We purchased approximately 11,486 renewable energy credits in 2009 and we are looking to purchase 50,000 more in 2010.

Now we are asking ourselves, “Is that enough?”

In re-evaluating our method to calculate usage, we found some holes in our current method. We want a more accurate method to determine usage. With the help of our sister agency, Bonneville Power Administration, we are working to solidify the calculation to include those facilities that don’t have metering in place. This new process will allow us to determine if the current amount of renewable energy we are purchasing is sufficient. Results are expected in July.

So now we ask you, what is your company doing to conserve and to use our natural resources? Share your ideas!