Posted on February 19, 2013

UC San Francisco’s Air Conditioning Upgrade Saves Loads of Energy

By David Kligman

SAN FRANCISCO — PG&E today (Feb. 19) awarded $846,000 to the University of California, San Francisco, the latest energy efficiency incentives that have become a regular occurrence at one of the world’s leading centers of health sciences, research and patient care.

Last spring, PG&E presented the university with a nearly $3 million check for incentives earned by implementing energy-saving measures over three years, including motion sensor lighting and variable speed ventilation throughout UCSF buildings.

PG&E's Laurie Giammona and Sukhjeet Sandhu, director of engineering & utilities for UCSF's Medical Center, talked about energy savings at today's event. (Photos by David Kligman.)

But the latest ceremony was significant for several reasons — it represents the largest energy savings for a single project at UCSF and it was the first big-scale energy upgrade project at the university’s medical centers. One of the checks was for $757,000 as part of a project to replace one of two absorption  chillers and upgrade the chilled water piping and pumping systems at the main campus’ Moffitt-Long hospitals.

The 1980s steam-driven chiller, which chills water that’s piped throughout the hospitals for needed air conditioning, relied on steam from the campus’ central plant. UCSF’s Sukhjeet Sandhu said the old chiller was unreliable, inefficient, required a lot of maintenance and had an inadequate cooling capacity. The new 600-ton chiller is variable frequency drive electric centrifugal chiller. While electricity use went up for the chiller, the overall energy savings was tremendous.

UCSF estimated that its utility bill is reduced by $1.3 million a year.

“It’s a phenomenal change from what we had,” said Sandhu, director of engineering & utilities for the UCSF Medical Center. “You can rightfully say that this is as efficient as any chilled water system out there.”

Energy savings equivalent to removing 551 cars

The upgrade saves almost 411,000 kilowatt hours and more than 658,000 therms of energy each year, savings equivalent to avoiding nearly 8 million pounds of carbon dioxide or powering 921 homes for one year or removing 551 cars from the road.

A new chiller will save USCF almost 411,000 kilowatt hours and more than 658,000 therms of energy each year.

“This project is special — not just for the city but for the state,” said Laurie Giammona, PG&E’s vice president of customer service. “Essentially what you’re doing by reducing CO2, by helping to conserve energy is to really help Californians. As we focus as a company to help businesses, you really have become a role model to show other businesses what can be done and what can be done in a very urban environment.”

UCSF Medical Center CEO Mark Laret, who accepted the check from Giammona, praised the utility’s “visionary leadership” during the four-year project.

“This is counterintuitive,” Laret said. “We’re going to use less of your goods and services and then you’re going to give us a check for doing it. That’s really remarkable, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from PG&E.”

It was a complex project, requiring upgraded chilled water piping and controls. The work also had to be done while keeping the hospital fully staffed and running.

“We were never an inconvenience to the hospital,” Sandhu said. “They never even knew this was happening.”

Even more savings with lighting retrofit

In addition to the incentive for the chiller project, PG&E surprised UCSF with another check for nearly $89,000 as part of a lighting retrofit at the same hospitals. The university replaced its T12 lighting with modern and energy-efficient T8 lamps and ballasts, reducing electricity usage an additional 370,000 kilowatt hours a year.

The UCSF projects are the result of a PG&E partnership program designed specifically for University of California and California State universities. It provides greater incentives for universities and provides upfront technical support for the schools, which then realize significant energy savings.

PG&E customer relationship manager Eric Jansen said the support of UC leadership is the reason the partnership between PG&E and UC San Francisco works so well.

“The real kicker was our partnership program,” he said. “The UC Office of the President supports it and gets it. It’s that enthusiasm — and Sukhjeet’s vision and tenacity — that really has made it so successful.”

UCSF plans to replace its other chiller in the Moffitt hospital within the next few years.

Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.

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