Stanford Energy System Innovations — SESI


[MUSIC PLAYING] Stanford has had a long-term commitment to reducing its energy use, but also the carbon emissions associated with its energy use. We think it's important because we think climate change and greenhouse gases are critical for the future of our survival of our population. We decided early on that we wanted to follow the university's tradition of doing things in a bold way, so we decided to do something that no other university has tried– in fact, no other large institution has yet tried. I would describe SESI as a transformation of Stanford from a very modern and well-run energy system of the '80s and '90s to, really, the energy system of the 21st century for universities. Stanford is a place of culture, where exploration and innovation is expected, and it transcends beyond just teaching and research. It bleeds over into operations, and it's a great opportunity for myself and my team to strive to do great things.

That's where we really started our efforts in 2008. We got this full picture of energy use, and we compared our annual heating and cooling hour by hour, we found an incredible 75% overlap. We found that 75% of the year, we are producing as much heat and sending it out to the buildings for their use as we were receiving heat back from the buildings and discharging to the atmosphere as waste via evaporative cooling. My jaw really hit the desk. I knew right then we had this great opportunity looking at us to recover all this waste heat and use it for the university. When we began the project, we wanted to do something that was ambitious, but we also wanted to do something that we knew would work. Once we deployed both SESI and our green energy source for electricity, which will be based on photovoltaics, we will then achieve a reduction far exceeding, for example, California's 2030 goals for reduction. Articulating the clear motivations for how it would save money, how it would improve the university standing in terms of environment, how it would help us dramatically accelerate our ability to reach the goals that California and the federal government have set for greenhouse gas emissions– when we put that all together, I think it was clear to everybody this was a project that we had to do.

At Stanford, 25% of our drinking water is used today at that central energy facility for evaporative cooling to reject excess heat from the co-generation unit, as well as to reject the heat from our cooling system. Well, by not rejecting that heat with evaporative cooling and instead reusing with these heat pump machines, you don't use the water, and we'll be saving about 70% of the water we use at our central plant, which means saving about 15% to 18% of the total water use on campus in the process. You just have to want to do it. You have to have a positive outlook, can-do attitude. And so go innovate. Find a way to do it. Don't accept the status quo. SESI, of course, is providing energy for our university for decades to come in a very sustainable way. And in doing that, it provides a great educational opportunity for our students to understand how systems work, to understand how we make the trade offs and look for co-benefits in decision making, and to understand the technology of a really advanced system that makes sense for energy and for the environment. We think it will be a monumental point for Stanford not only to talk about the importance of the environment and doing something about climate change, but to actually walk the walk and show that you can do it in a cost effective, meaningful manner that moves us forward.