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tennessee technological university

TTU News

Published: Mon Feb 25, 2008

With four out of five environmentally friendly sustainability projects already complete this semester, Tennessee Tech University officials are looking for more ways to go greener next year.

The projects, totaling more than $112,000, are the first to be funded by the sustainable campus fee of $8 per undergraduate student per semester that was approved by a student vote in fall 2005.

Ideas for possible projects to be considered for next year can be submitted by faculty, staff and students through March 15.
“We’re encouraging people to make suggestions that comply with the TBR sustainable fee guidelines for campus projects that we can develop for next year,” said Larry Wheaton, facilities engineer.

“Several ideas that weren’t funded this year will be rolled over for consideration next year, but since sustainability is an ongoing process, we’d also like to continuously add potential project ideas each year,” he said.

Because sustainability involves consciously considering the impact on the environment of all our activities and monitoring, adapting and modifying those activities to achieve the most environmentally sound outcome, Wheaton said, it’s important for people to participate in the process by offering possible future sustainability projects.

This year’s projects included:

• replacing incandescent lighting with more efficient metal halide fixtures on the southeast intramural softball field.

The project resulted in a 74 percent reduction in the number of fixtures needed to light the field, Wheaton said. In all, 190 fixtures were reduced to 49.

“The connected electrical load was reduced by 72 percent, and lamp life was tripled from 1,000 hours for the old fixtures to 3,000 with the new ones,” he said.

• replacing steam control valves for more efficient residence hall heating and reduced coal consumption.

“Previously, there was a fixed set point for the temperature of the water used for heating the residence halls, but the new steam valves regulate the temperature of the delivered water based on the temperature outdoors,” Wheaton said.

“That means the heat doesn’t run continuously; it stops running if the temperature outside surpasses a certain point — and this change has really made a difference, especially in spring and fall, when temperatures in the morning tend to be cool enough to need heat but get quite warm later in the day,” he continued.

• modifying the university’s diesel generators to operate on a 20 percent blend of biodiesel fuel.

This project required changing the university’s Title 5 air pollution permit, which resulted in quite a few complicated calculations that had to be modified, Wheaton said, but the campus generators are now approved to run on a biodiesel fuel blend.

The generators provide electrical power to campus during power interruptions or failures of the utility company, and the university has investigated the possibility of using biodiesel fuel in other campus equipment.

“What we’ve found most often, however, is that using it without the recommendation of the manufacturer voids the warranty on that particular piece of equipment, but for the generators and other possible campus machinery that can take biofuels, we can purchase it from a local distributor,” Wheaton said.

• purchasing $1,500 in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Power Switch program.

• and purchasing one of two electric vehicles to offset gasoline vehicle usage on campus.

The car, made by Global Electric Motorcars, a part of Chrysler Corp., reaches a top speed of 25 mph. Approved by the Tennessee Department of Transportation for public roads, the vehicle is ideal for saving energy while driving around campus at slow speeds, Wheaton said.

GEM vehicles are battery-electric, operate on a 72-volt battery system and plug into a standard 110-volt outlet. Charging takes approximately six to eight hours, and the car can run up to 30 miles on a single charge.

To offset the cost of charging the electric battery, the university will also be adding solar collectors on campus to feed back into the power grid.

Maintenance workers have been using the vehicle to make trips around campus when they need to supervise various projects, but there are many other appropriate applications for such a vehicle on a college campus, Wheaton said.

“These are our first steps in demonstrating that TTU is a campus dedicated to sustainability,” he concluded.

For more information about TBR sustainable campus fee guidelines and TTU’s sustainable campus fee, log on to Sustainable campus fee initiatives, proposals for funding and questions can be e-mailed to