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!


  • By cavity insulation, March 1, 2010 @ 9:53 am

    Alot of governments are now issuing grants for home owners to properly insulate their homes as alot of old houses have sub standard insulation that doesn’t really hold any heat thus wasting and burning more fuel. does the US have any such grant scheme?

  • By Insulation paint, March 15, 2010 @ 11:41 am

    Those are great ideas! I hadn’t considered dimmer switches. I worked for a business last summer that had to meet an energy curtailment during the summer months. We did a lot better job about making sure unused lights were off.

  • By Ron James, March 16, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

    First, congratulations to your company for making extra effort to conserve energy.As for now, our company needs to exert more effort and attention to this matter. Thanks to your blog, it gave as an idea to do the same.

  • By Residential Wind Turbines, April 15, 2010 @ 5:16 am

    Dimmer switches are a great way to reduce energy demand, although at present the bulbs are pretty expensive. For a compact florescent dimmable bulb you’re looking at £12 each! The normal CFL bulbs are only around £1 so you’re paying a huge premium for something that actually saves energy. I have no idea why they cost this much, but hopefully it will come down as the technology develops.

  • By mobile recycling, May 13, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

    Been waiting for ages for the price to decrease and the availability to increase of dimmable energy saving bulbs but it’s just not happening.

  • By waterretentionlady, May 31, 2010 @ 4:04 am

    It is wonderful to see people care about the environment and saving energy. If only more people would. I have used energy-saving bulbs since they were first available.

  • By Victor, June 13, 2010 @ 6:23 am

    Thanks for the info…am running up to Home Depot now for the dimmer switches…there truly is so much waste in this country,,,stay well

  • By vendre maison, June 24, 2010 @ 3:17 am

    I hadn’t considered dimmer switches. We worked for a business that had to meet energy .

  • By Hom Solar Panels, July 1, 2010 @ 7:38 am

    I am currently trying my best to make my house as energy efficient as possible. I have even built my own solar panels from scratch because i could not believe how expensive they were to buy new. I think that is a major problm when it comes to the “greener” option, if these companys were able to lower the prices of a lot of the gadgets then it would make them a lot more accessable.

  • By Angela (Fuel cell), July 5, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

    I agree with “Mobile recycling”‘s comment. Waiting for a price decrease has been a long time coming. As long as it costs more to help the environment it won’t be a priority. I care but I can’t afford to show it.

  • By Bradford Fleming, September 2, 2010 @ 2:26 am

    We replaced most of the lights in my house with 5 watts or less what supports dimmer switches. Also unplugging the refrigerator when everyone has gone asleep, and never fail to plug it back upon waking up. We tend to try doing our laundry on a weekly basis, so does the ironing; I believe we can save more on energy by doing so.

  • By James Allen Reviews, September 4, 2010 @ 11:02 am

    Definitely agree with the comments regarding the costs involved. These days, more than ever, people are trying to be conservative with their money. As long as it’s more expensive to be “green”, people aren’t going to do it. There has be a way to balance the two. I do my best, but whenever it comes down to price vs. green, you know what side I’m going to have to take… sad reality, but reality nonetheless.

  • By beaded scarf, September 18, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

    i agree “green life”

  • By Louisville Roofing, May 18, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

    It’s great to hear about real live conservation efforts that are cost-effeective and simple. That’s what will get people to change. Small steps like changing light bulbs and HVAC timers are the way to move towards greener solutions.

  • By Ted Daniels, July 7, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

    Also remember that insulated skylights save on lighting costs. When well placed in a home, electric lighting can be virtually eliminated in the day.

  • By duane, July 24, 2011 @ 11:51 pm

    We need to do a lot more then just bulb. Adding solar to public buildings and their parking areas.
    Take the subsidies we give the oil company’s and use it to subsidize solar development and use

  • By David Terken, September 1, 2011 @ 10:20 am

    It’s mind-boggling the little things we don’t do that could save energy. Dimming the lights in hallways at businesses is so easy and smart. We need more incentives to do this at home and at work.

  • By Work Schedule Maker, November 25, 2011 @ 3:24 am

    Energy conservation is a must in this generation, we all know that our world now is slowly deteriorating. Saving some energy like using smart windows to provide lighting with the source of the sunlight is already a big contribution on conserving energy. Also using small amount of watts on bulb is also an advantage, because of it’s led, it provides bright lights and less energy consumption.

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  • By Alexia Mccalment, June 26, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

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