Climate change is the environmental issue of our time. The UW is a world-class research center in climate-related topics; in fact climate change’s centrality to our academic life is reflected in a Guiding Principle of this Sustainability Strategy. We’re going to follow through on our sustainability commitment by embarking on a major energy planning process to drastically reduce the Seattle Campus district heating system’s demand for fossil fuels, and reduce our dependence on utility energy with solar photovoltaic power on all our campuses.
This Target is relative to a 2005 baseline, for consistency with Washington State law. All other Targets in the UW Sustainability Plan are relative to a 2020 baseline.
Target actions for 2022View actions for past fiscal years
Sustainability plan guiding principles
- Ensure students achieve sustainability literacy
- Choose our research conscientiously
- Keep equity and inclusion at the center
- Use resources responsibly
Target actions for 2022
UW aspires to convert its fleet to all-electric (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) (with the exception of selected emergency vehicles), deliver a full complement of vehicle charging equipment for fl eet and public use in campus parking facilities. Current opportunities to recoup charging costs are limited to parking permit fees and fleet rental agreements, though EV charging raises capital and utility costs.
The estimated 14 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity possible on UW transportation assets (parking lots) could produce approximately 14 gigawatt hours (GWhs) of electricity per year, if fully deployed, which is currently about 5 percent of Seattle campus electricity demand. Another 500 and 170 kW are available on Bothell and Tacoma lots, respectively.
Steps we will take in FY 2021
Target 50-70 vehicle replacements per year transitioning from ICE (internal combustion engines) to EV as market forces allow, pursuing new vehicle asset classes after initial prices decline to fleet and economy rates.
Implement charging infrastructure in concert with transition to EV and solar canopy installation, and develop a consolidated rate structure and implementation solution for parking with charging.
Implement a two-pronged strategy for solar canopy and EV charging installation in coordination with the Campus Solar Plan of utility scale systems based on available finance and small systems specific to existing user characteristics.
Statuses and linkages
Analysis of the opportunity to electrify the UW Seattle fleet and parking services and capacity for parking to house solar canopies has been completed and a report will be released in June 2021. The same analysis has been applied to the Bothell and Tacoma campuses. There are linkages between these targets and actions, and the goal of reducing commuting to campus via single occupancy vehicles..
- The strategy to electrify UW Transportation Services is shown in Steps 1, 2, and 3. Step 1, though currently tied to the vehicle replacement schedule and reduced cost of ownership to UWT for EV in comparison to ICE, can accelerate as additional funds become available. Step 2 requires a review and development of a rate policy to recoup the cost of capital investment and electricity for charging. Step 3 capital investments and charging infrastructure are suitable for capitalization through the green revolving fund. Full buildout of 14 MW of solar requires an estimated total $28 - $30 million in capital expenditures plus an additional $438,000 for electrical distribution upgrades. Besides the funding stream from electric surcharges, we forecast $46-48 million in cost avoidance from vehicle fuels and utility payments.
Progress toward completion of the Action will be measured by:
- Number of UW fleet vehicles transitioned from ICE to either EV or PHEV.
- kW of charger-connected solar capacity.
- Number of parking spaces having charger access.
- A proposed rate structure and payment method for vehicle charging.
UW aspires to complete, by December 31, 2021, a Campus Energy phased strategic approach that outlines a pathway forward for a significant decarbonization of the Seattle campus by 2030, or earlier. Development of the plan will include key stakeholder involvement led by the Campus Energy Program Manager. During the process of creating the Campus Energy Plan, the Stakeholder team will consider options for evaluating technological and financially viable strategies for achieving the carbon reduction goals while maintaining reliable and cost effective service – including heat and steam sterilization – to the hospital and other campus buildings.
Besides technological innovation, this project will require financial innovation as well. Modernizing the Seattle campus district heating system will be among UW’s largest capital projects to date, and multiple financing models need to be comparatively evaluated.
Steps we will take in FY 2022
- Engage in the planning and design of the current 2021 maintenance and repair project intended to enhance the power plant reliability “Power Plant Phase 1 Infrastructure Renewal.” Engagement to focus on evaluating options for reduced energy consumption.
- Conduct a long term strategic planning summit with “key stakeholders” with an outcome defining an overall approach for a phased transition towards significant decarbonization of the Seattle campus heating & cooling plants by 2030.
- Leverage the approach defined in strategic planning summit to scope and fund required consulting services, studies and/ or preliminary design efforts for phases moving forward.
Statuses and linkages
In March 2020, UW Facilities issued a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit ideas from experts around the country for planning, building, and financing a low-carbon energy system. These responses are currently being reviewed by the Energy Roadmap Team which includes support from the Engineering Services and UW Sustainability departments.
Several other universities have completed or launched similar projects. Stanford University recently completed a new combined heating and cooling plant that is perceived as a particularly successful example. The new Stanford plant, when combined with solar power procurement, reduced Stanford GHG emissions by about 72 percent from its peak levels.
A thorough review of the engineering and financial options is needed before assigning a budget estimate to such a large scale project. UW is targeting development to start in 2023, with first phase completion in 2028.
Completion of each listed FY2022 Step shall serve as the measure of progress during FY2022.
Develop and implement a phased roll out of campus solar plans for UW Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell campuses. On the Seattle campus, 173 out of 372 buildings are suitable for solar photovoltaics and could support 15 megawatts (MW) of capacity, or 15 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity per year, which is equivalent to about 5 percent of campus electricity demand. (This is in addition to the 14 MW of solar potential on parking areas described in the action to Electrify UW Transportation Services.) At UW Bothell, 13 of the 28 buildings analyzed are suitable, for a capacity of 1.2 MW (with another 500 kW potential on garages and lots). At UW Tacoma, there are 18 out of 33 buildings suitable for a capacity of 1 MW (and about 180 kW in parking canopies). The Seattle campus currently has 6 rooftop arrays, while Bothell has 6 arrays, most of which are on transportation assets.
Steps we will take in FY 2022
- Review and approve a Campus Solar Plan, with identified funding mechanisms, for developing solar assets on campus buildings by 2035. Anticipated completion: December 31, 2021.
- Revise campus design guidelines to include solar and related infrastructure investments for new and existing buildings. Anticipated completion: March 31, 2022.
- Install 1 MW per year on buildings and 1 MW per year as canopies on transportation assets. Anticipated completion: June 31, 2022 for year one and action is ongoing.
UW Resource Conservation in coordination with UW Solar
Statuses and linkages
Solar installations on UW campuses also reduce building energy usage intensity, and can be integrated into thermal systems for compounded savings. On the Seattle campus, solar energy reduces the peak load demand for electricity, buying time to make larger scale investments needed to decarbonize the power plant. UW hosts solar photovoltaics developed by the UW Solar Group, part of the UW Clean Energy Institute, on the Mercer A Apartments (35 kW), Alder Hall (50 kW), Elm Hall (25 kW), Maple Hall (25 kW), the Life Sciences Building (105 kW), in rooftop and solar shading fins). In addition, research and student projects have resulted in arrays on the IMA Building, Merrill Hall, Power Plant roof, and the Mechanical Engineering Building. University of Washington’s Bothell campus also hosts 122 kW of solar photovoltaic, on the library building and parking garages.
- Solar, with reduced utility costs as returns on investment, fit the parameters for finance with a revolving fund. There is also potential for investments from local utilities, the U.S. Department of Energy, donors, or other parties. Current capital costs estimates are $2-2.5 M per MW, which save 130 percent of these costs in avoided utility payments over the 25 years of the warranty.
- Quarterly progress of completing campus solar plan and campus design guidelines.