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Oklahoma City University raises the bar on energy management

Oklahoma City University Director of Facilities Jeff Castleberry looks at readings in real time on a meter donated by Eaton Corporation as part of their energy management plan. Photo provided.
Oklahoma City University Director of Facilities Jeff Castleberry looks at readings in real time on a meter donated by Eaton Corporation as part of their energy management plan. Photo provided.

By Darla Shelden
Contributing Writer

Oklahoma City University is participating in Earth Day every day. The university will implement a new energy management plan this spring aimed at making it one of the most energy-efficient schools in the nation.

OCU has partnered with THG Energy in Tulsa to create effective energy management initiatives. The efforts are designed to lower usage during peak demand hours and to educate students and employees about methods to conserve energy at work and home.

THG works with partners to help implement sustainable programs for achieving energy savings.

Since partnering with THG, OCU has already reduced energy consumption 10 percent and earned $19,181 in rebates from OGE for installing high efficiency light bulbs.

Although OCU is a private university, the plan addresses Gov. Mary Fallin’s energy efficiency law that requires public higher education institutions and state agencies to improve efficiency and conservation measures 20 percent by 2020.

OCU Director of Facilities Jeff Castleberry says that OCU already has cut average monthly energy use by 8 percent since 2010. He expects efficiency to improve another 5 percent in the next year and 20 percent before 2020.

OCU President Robert Henry said, “As a leader in private, liberal arts education, Oklahoma City University continues to implement innovative ways to nurture our students in a campus community that is both caring and creative.

“Thanks to proactive efforts by our facilities department, we are already on the cutting edge of energy saving innovations for private colleges and universities,” Henry continued. “Through our new energy management plan, we will continue to reduce consumption.”

Ten percent of OCU faculty and staff along with student representatives will work together across campus on “Green Teams” to improve energy efficiency in classrooms, offices and dorms. They will work to obtain Energy Star labels for new and existing buildings.

Arts & Sciences Dean, Mark Davies said, “There are student representatives on the Executive Green Team that is overseeing energy efficiency and efforts across campus. Green Teams student involvement will focus on increasing energy efficiency in each of the major buildings on campus.

“These students will be learning about Oklahoma City University’s energy usage and efficiency efforts. They will participate in educating our students, faculty, and staff concerning measures that will continue to make the campus more ecological sustainable.

“There will be some healthy competition among buildings that will be part of the process as we challenge each other to move towards greater efficiency,” Davies added.

Jim Roth, Chair, Alternative Energy Practice Group at Phillips Murrah law firm in Oklahoma City and OCU alumni said, “OCU’s leadership on energy efficiencies and conservation, as well as the many forward-thinking ideas from President Robert Henry, is proof that a great university can teach a student many valuable lessons both inside and outside of the curriculum and the classroom.

“What OCU will save in the years ahead will no doubt mean a richer college experience for every student enrolled today and in the years ahead,” Roth added.

Planned measures include software installation to reduce energy usage on campus computers and upgrading ice storage equipment with a system that will nearly eliminate the use of electricity for cooling during peak hours throughout the summer.

Davies said, “Students in our Environmental Studies major and in our Oikos Scholars Program for Social and Ecological Responsibility continue to engage the university efforts for energy efficiency both in and out of the classroom.

“These students will continue ongoing audits of the university’s sustainability practices as part of their research and service in a course titled ‘Sustainability and the Environment’ taught by Dr. Adam Ryburn, the Director of Oklahoma City University’s Environmental Studies Program.”

According to Davies, students will be making use of The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) made available by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, of which OCU is an institutional member.

Students participate in the Oklahoma City University Sustainability Council and in the student centered organization called Blue Goes Green. Both groups are involved in efforts to educate the campus about sustainability issues and practices.

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