Energy savings project sees success at MSU

Contact: Zack Plair

STARKVILLE, Miss.--Mississippi State is realizing savings just six months after completing a major lighting retrofit project.

J.D. Hardy, associate director of engineering services, said the university in January finished a two-phase, multi-million dollar effort to replace T12 fluorescent lighting with more efficient light-emitting diode (LED) technology in 22 central-campus buildings.

He said MSU replaced 145-watt T12 lamps with 40-watt LED systems that actually improve lighting quality and reduce overall energy consumption.

The new LED lighting infrastructure is expected to last more than 15 years, Hardy said, providing energy savings on a continuing basis for the university.

Because federal energy regulations enacted in recent years are encouraging phase-outs of T12 technology, MSU elected to get ahead of the curve in updating its facilities, Hardy said. The Tennessee Valley Authority also paid MSU $453,000 in rebate incentives toward the project, he added.

"A lot of our old infrastructure had to be updated," he continued. "We were either going to have to do it little by little over a long period or take a big chunk at a time. Either way, we were going to have to do it eventually."

Selection of campus facilities for upgrades was based on the age of existing technology and how much savings LED upgrades could generate, according to Hardy.

The project included diverse spaces that ranged from classrooms and residence halls to athletic facilities. Two of the larger ones, Wise Center and Mitchell Memorial Library, made up almost 32 percent of the total upgraded square footage.

MSU selected SmartWatt Energy from among 10 proposals to complete the work that began in 2013. Hardy said he was pleased overall with the national firm's performance and specifically with its diligence and commitment to customer service.

Smart Watt employees often worked overnight while the buildings weren't in use and were consistently accessible to MSU personnel throughout the process, he said.

Jeremiah Dumas said the energy-saving project should help Mississippi State achieve its 30-year Climate Action Plan goals to reduce the university's carbon footprint.

Director of campus parking, transit and sustainability, Dumas termed the upgrade "a great case-study of the impact of investing in proven technologies and how those investments can reap long-term savings due to increased efficiency and decreased maintenance cost.

"LED lighting not only uses far less energy compared to our old lighting types, but has a much longer life span, and creates a light that is much more similar to natural daylighting," Dumas said.

Hardy estimates that MSU still requires $7.5 million in upgrades for 2.5 million more square feet--or 40-50 more buildings--to totally transition the main campus to an LED system. How soon that is done depends on funding availability and priorities.

Dumas said each successful money-saving project essentially generates revenue for future projects that will do the same. Looking ahead long-term, he also expressed hope that the 137-year-old land-grant institution's commitment to energy efficiency will translate into additional energy consciousness by all who work, study and live on campus.

"Over the last 10 years, MSU has heavily invested in capital improvement energy projects," Dumas said. "We have established a revolving fund that is fed by energy savings in an effort to continue funding capital improvements. Another near term goal of ours is to focus efforts not just on campus-wide capital improvements, but develop programs focused on educating the campus population to begin changing behaviors so that we as a campus community are operating as efficiently as the new and efficient infrastructures currently in place."

MSU, Mississippi's flagship research university, is online at www.msstate.edu, facebook.com/msstate, instagram.com/msstate and twitter.com/msstate.