Would you tell us a little about yourself and your job?
I'm an electrical engineer with the Operation and Maintenance Division (O&M). I've been at the UI almost two years. I grew up in a family with 13 children and worked in my father's electrical contracting business. My education includes a bachelor's and master's degree in electrical engineering. My wife and I moved here in 1994.
What does your job entail?
Until recently, I was with the O&M engineering design group. Our work included electrical control design and specification for building heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems. I was working on a variety of energy-conservation projects. My design work focused on the control diagrams and schematics for the variable-frequency drives that were installed in several campus buildings. Variable-frequency drives replace existing motor starters to automatically vary the speed of fans and pumps to save energy in heating and air conditioning systems. I also provide engineering support to many O&M shops.
Your job is changing, isn't it?
I'm still doing engineering design to finish up some jobs. However, on the first of July, I moved into the energy-management engineering area. My main focus is energy-conservation strategies, initiatives and projects for the campus. Our work utilizes the latest technologies to automate our building mechanical systems. Direct digital control and monitoring of these systems sends status and alarm messages to O&M persons on a 24-hour, seven day per week basis. We try to discover problems before they are apparent to the campus community. I also keep track of campus energy use, costs and trends. This includes budget aspects of energy usage. It is interesting to note that the campus pays approximately $20 million a year for its utilities. This includes electricity, natural gas, water and sewer. Many buildings get their energy from the campus power plant. High-pressure steam produced here is used to generate approximately one-third of the electric power to campus, and lower-pressure steam is distributed to campus for heating and cooling.
Energy management sounds like a long term project. What kind of timeline are you working under?
It's a pretty extensive project. We are continually evaluating possible strategies, while working to keep up with the day-to-day and week-to-week ongoing responsibilities. For example, control-monitoring technology is changing all the time. What we can do now compared to what we could do five years ago is completely different. It's interesting and mind-boggling to keep up with. We are always working on new energy-conservation strategies, ranging from variable-frequency drives to more efficient lighting systems, for instance. There are a lot of different ways to save energy. We have to weigh the differences and choose the ones that have the shortest payback time. For example, we have a five-year plan in place. However, this plan continues to evolve. We have a few thousand motors on campus [running various systems] and have already installed more than 550 variable-frequency drives since the early 1990s. There are many remaining opportunities for increased energy savings on campus. We have three projects with 30 more variable-frequency drives in progress this year. We'll design the projects inhouse with drawings and schematics, and our crafts will install them. This has worked very well on recent projects.
With this variety of duties, do you have a team to work with?
Yes, everyone at O&M. Our craftspersons are excellent. They are some of the best in the area. I enjoyed working directly with them during my design assignments. This allowed me to develop a good rapport. Although I now have less direct involvement, I still view it as a real privilege to work with these people.