University asked to conserve energy on campus

Shawntaye Hopkins

Yesterday morning John Osborne worked in his office – without the lights on.

Osborne, associate vice president for campus services and facilities, said that is one thing anyone on campus can do to conserve energy. Administrators are encouraging others to do likewise.

Facilities Management sent an e-mail on Tuesday asking students, faculty and staff on the Hill to reduce their electrical usage or risk losing their air conditioning for periods of time.

Facilities Management director Doug Ault said the notice reflects the need to conserve energy, especially after recent blackouts in the Northeast and Midwest.

Last Thursday millions of people in about eight states and Canada experienced blackouts, according to a story in The New York Times on Friday.

They were the largest in American history.

The e-mail notice was sent to help prevent electrical overloads, Ault said.

“We are mandated a certain amount of power we can use,” he said. “We are approaching that maximum.”

Tommy Brown, director of customer service at Bowling Green Municipal Utilities, said the hot weather conditions and the additions of new buildings on campus put it at a high risk.

Ault said the university, through its contract with BGMU, can’t exceed an energy capacity level beyond 12 kilowatts.

The university is currently running between 11.5 and 11.8 kilowatts right now, Ault said.

BGMU’s power is provided through Tennessee Valley Authority, he said. If the maximum is reached, TVA will mandate cutbacks in energy usage.

Ault said the reductions will most likely come in the form of a rolling air conditioning system across campus, because TVA doesn’t consider cooling a necessity at a university.

Chicago freshman Lindsey Romoser said she knows what it’s like to have air conditioning occasionally shut off.

“I hate rolling air conditioning, because my high school had it and it got really hot and stuffy,” she said.

Romoser said she tries to save energy by turning off lights and unplugging anything she’s not using, but she knows many students don’t think about the ways they can help.

Ault encouraged Western’s students and faculty to conserve energy in any way possible. Joining Osborne and Romoser by turning off lights would help.

“Lights usually account for about 30 percent of our total load,” Ault said.

At a staff meeting yesterday, Brian Kuster, director of Housing and Residence Life, said hall directors will talk to their resident assistants and post signs about reducing energy usage in dorms.

Kuster said students will be asked to turn up thermostats and turn off lights.

Some students incorrectly believe turning fluorescent lights on and off use more energy than just leaving them on, Ault said. Those lights should also be turned off, even if they aren’t being used for a second.

He said stickers featuring Big Red will be placed by light switches in several classrooms, reminding students and faculty to turn off the lights.

Nashville sophomore Rebecca Wieck thinks the reminders are a good idea.

“I usually turn off the lights when I’m in the room, but I leave my computer on all the time,” she said.

Wieck said she’ll try to conserve energy as much as possible in order to avoid air conditioning cutbacks.

“I think that’s crazy because most of the buildings are going to be used at the same time, and it will get really hot,” she said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]