Energy-saving moves paying off for university

Aquinas College resident Alyssa Cruickshank  enjoys the sun beside the solar fence at Aquinas,...
Aquinas College resident Alyssa Cruickshank enjoys the sun beside the solar fence at Aquinas, which saved the North Dunedin hall of residence $4000 last year. Photo: Gregor Richardson
The University of Otago is forecasting its residential colleges will save nearly $800,000 a year on energy, after introducing energy-saving measures, including a solar fence.

The university’s property services division energy team, which has been following the progress of colleges since 2010, is forecasting they will be 35% more efficient this year, and 59% more carbon efficient. At Aquinas College a "solar fence" was put in place in the second semester of 2017, and it had already saved the college $4000.

Head of college Luke McClelland  said the panels had been  installed because the hall of residence’s hot-water cylinders needed replacing. The fence did not produce electricity, but heated up glycol in pipes. The pipes heated the water for Aquinas’ Priory building which provided student accommodation.

Students at the college will become more involved in energy-saving measures later this year when a Green Impact initiative is  run.

"They are really keen [to save energy]," Mr McClelland said.

It was a "great framework" to let students put their own ideas forward, he said.  University property services director Barry McKay said the panels could supply 25 kilowatts of heat at peak times. The panels were tilted to 75 degrees, to catch the winter sun. Carrington College’s coal-fired boiler was replaced with a woodchip boiler last month, and a number of other measures including fitting low-flow shower heads, replacing lights with LEDs, and topping up insulation were in place across the colleges. Savings across all halls were expected to total about $775,000 annually from 2018. Mr McKay said University College (Unicol) had been connected to Pioneer Energy’s boiler in Castle St, as its fuel changed from coal to wood.

"Hayward College, Cumberland College and Te Rangi Hiroa College already use it for heat," Mr McKay said.

Bioenergy Association executive officer Brian Cox said Dunedin’s large users of heat, including halls of residence, the hospital, and formerly Cadbury’s chocolate factory, used the Pioneer Energy boiler, which created a "brilliant situation" when it came to energy efficiency. 

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