Revolving Energy Fund reaches $600,000

TRU’s Office of Environment and Sustainability prepares for upcoming projects

Near the proposed site for a wind turbine on campus. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

Near the proposed site for a wind turbine on campus. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

The pool of capital that represents TRU’s Office of Environment and Sustainability’s budget for future projects has reached $600,000. This is nearly triple the amount the fund has reached in years before.

The fund, which has been around for almost five years now, was created from the savings of the Energy Efficiency Capital initiative in 2011. Now, the energy savings by the university from all of Environment and Sustainability’s projects are added to the fund.

This Revolving Energy Fund represents a large portion of the department’s financial resources and directly corresponds to how many capital projects they take on. TRU’s director of Environment and Sustainability, Jim Gudjonson, predicts it will take somewhere between 12 and 18 months to use the funds.

“Some of that $600,000 has already been earmarked for projects on the go right now. A few of those projects are in the feasibility study and design stage of development already,” Gudjonson said.

In the past, the Revolving Energy Fund has been used to bring BC Hydro’s Continuous Optimization Program (C-Op) to TRU. The program involved hooking up all of TRU’s major buildings to an energy dashboard. This allowed Environment and Sustainability to monitor each building’s energy consumption in real time.

The fund has also gone to retrofitting all existing buildings with high-tech LED lights, something Environment and Sustainability believes will help reduce electricity use even further.

Right now, Environment and Sustainability is looking at multiple capital projects to help reduce TRU’s electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

“One project we are looking into is installing a wood biomass boiler in the Williams Lake campus. We would be able to use wasted wood as fuel for heating the buildings there,” Gudjonson said. He also said that the boiler may be able to reduce the Williams Lake campus’ greenhouse gas emissions by 90 per cent. This would represent a 10 per cent decrease in TRU’s emissions overall. The plans surrounding the project are expected to be posted to TRU’s website next March.

Though it is just a concept, Gudjonson said there may even be the possibility for a wood biomass boiler on the Kamloops campus, too.

“We might decide to put in our own wood biomass district energy system here. Although, it wouldn’t be a full-blown system linking all the buildings, as it needs to be cost- and time-effective. What we’re looking at is linking all the big buildings, including TCC, to a sustainable energy grid,” Gudjonson said. Though this may still be a few years away, Environment and Sustainability predicts that it could reduce TRU’s greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 50 per cent.

Another project, which is more likely to happen in the immediate future, is Environment and Sustainability’s purchasing of renewable gases from FortisBC. On Nov. 5, Gudjonson signed an agreement with FortisBC to receive 10 per cent of the university’s gas fuel as renewable gases instead of natural gas.

Though TRU will pay a premium rate for these renewable gases, Gudjonson said they will reduce TRU’s greenhouse gas emissions by a further 10 per cent. Unlike natural gas, which is a fossil fuel and isn’t renewable, the renewable gases discussed in the agreement come from agricultural and landfill waste.

The installation of more solar technology is also on the table.

“Solar siding has been looked at – drapes too. Most likely though, the next building to be built on campus will feature solar blinds. These blinds will be translucent and let light through, but turn the heat that hits them into electricity,” Gudjonson said. He added that TRU faculty and students can expect to see more solar panels on campus rooftops within the next few years as well.

The university might also get its own wind turbine. Data collection work will soon start on top of the rocky knoll behind the Trades building. Gudjonson plans to collect data for nine months before moving ahead with the project. “The sky is the only limit in terms of wind turbines,” Gudjonson said.