By Stephen Eibes

Student Life Services (SLS) departments have taken steps to become more energy efficient and environmentally friendly utilizing Focus on Energy (FOE), Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable resource program which provides incentives for investing in energy improvements.

“We’ve upgraded the compressors on refrigeration units in Price Commons and the Memorial Student Center (MSC),” said Darrin Witucki, Director of the Memorial Student Center. “We’ve installed different types of circulating pumps and energy efficient cooking equipment; all sorts of items that aren’t normally considered when making the campus more energy efficient.”

FOE works within a rebate system, either prescriptive or custom, which offset a portion of the total cost for energy efficient measures that are implemented. Prescriptive rebates work like a normal rebate: you buy a product like an LED light bulb and receive a percentage of your purchase back. A FOE representative works with custom rebates for larger projects to develop a sustainable building plan.

“It’s funded by the bigger investor-owned utility companies such as: Xcel, Alliant, and We Energies,” said Sarah Rykal, Sustainability Coordinator. “When I pay my Xcel Energy bill, a percentage of that is put towards the Focus on Energy program.”

Stout instituted a custom rebate when they began remodeling Jarvis in 2009 as well as other prescriptive and hybrid rebates for projects when eligible. The most recent rebate was for converting incandescent bulbs to LEDs in the MSC Ballrooms and Great Hall.

“The project was funded by the Green Fee and cost $2905.25. We received an incentive for $400,” Rykal said.

While the incentive provided a 14% return on the initial purchase, the MSC is able to calculate long-term benefits based on their usage data.

“We know, fairly accurately our daily light usage, we know how many hours per year we put on our bulbs. Based solely on the energy usage of the bulbs, the entire project is a 25-month return on investment.” Witucki said.

The utility cost of an incandescent bulb is $1.66/month while the LED costs only $0.24/month - a savings of $1.42 per bulb per month.

By switching from incandescent to LED, efficiency is not the only thing Stout gains; the time saved from regularly changing light bulbs allows the SLS staff to focus on other projects throughout departments.

“We were changing bulbs about every six months. Our incandescent bulbs were on maybe a 2,000-hour lifecycle, these new LEDs are on about a 50,000-60,000-hour life cycle,” Witucki added.

Rykal wants to see new LED lighting other buildings throughout campus.

“The Stout Energy Committee wants to reduce energy consumption, and the biggest bang for our buck is LED lighting. We are interested in replacing lighting in interior and exterior locations all across campus,” Rykal said.

Witucki is hopeful that Stout will continue their sustainable streak.

“If we can’t institute a program this year, we’ll just have to wait. But when we get the green light, we are definitely going to try and maximize the program. We want to maximize our buildings’ potential to be energy efficient, cost effective, and environmentally friendly as possible.”