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UNH Working to Help Towns and Cities Cut Energy Costs

Two University of New Haven students and a UNH professor are working to make city and town buildings greener through a partnership with the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund and The United Illuminating Company (UI).

The ultimate goal is to help municipalities conserve resources, protect the environment and cut costs.

They recently completed an energy benchmarking project for the town of Woodbridge and are beginning work in West Haven and Fairfield as part of the Clean Energy Communities Program (CEC). Funded through the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund in partnership with UI, the CEC program and this partnership are part of the state’s new Energize Connecticut initiative, designed to focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency.                 

Adam Sipperly, a senior majoring in system engineering, and Jessica Zielinski, a sophomore majoring in sustainability studies, under the direction of Amy Thompson, assistant professor of system engineering, recorded data on the energy use of Woodbridge’s town buildings to “create a snapshot of how those buildings are performing right now,” said Thompson.

The CEC program was developed and is run by the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, Connecticut Light and Power, The United Illuminating Company, and the Energy Efficiency Board.  This and other Connecticut energy efficiency programs are supported with funding from a charge on customer energy bills as part of the Energize Connecticut initiative. Towns and cities that make a pledge to reduce their building energy use by 20 percent by 2018 can compete for grants for more energy-related building upgrades.

Thompson said the initiative provided a grant to UNH for technical support to assist towns in the region who sign up for the CEC program and sign the pledge.

For the UNH students, it has been experiential learning at its best, Thompson said. “They are experiencing the whole gamut of what it takes to be a working professional,” she said. “They collect data at the buildings. They meet with town officials and have to make presentations before town and city officials. They are also data crunching and engineering.”

Joseph Hellauer, the administrative officer for the town of Woodbridge, commended their work. “They were very well-trained and professional,” he said. “I couldn’t have been more pleased.”

Caryn Converse, of the West Haven Energy Commission, said, “We think it is absolutely wonderful.  Many towns, such as ours, do not naturally have the staff to input and update the necessary data.  The interns make this possible.”

Linda Darveau, from the Northeast Region EPA office, trained Thompson, Sipperly and Zielinski on a sophisticated data collection tool, the EPA Portfolio Manager, but when no square footage figures were available for some town buildings, Hellauer, Sipperly and Zielinski went low-tech, taking a tape measure out to the buildings and gathering measurements by hand.

“I was amazed to see how much money is required to pay the energy bills in these publically funded buildings, so any conservation efforts will aid towns,” said Zielinski.

As in the town of Woodbridge, they will gather data on town office and school buildings, libraries, police and fire departments and recreation centers, gathering an expansive and in-depth view of energy use in West Haven and Fairfield. “If my participation has in any way reduced the towns’ energy bills,” Sipperly said, “then I'm happy to have helped.”

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