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UNM Sustainability Studies Program

The UNM Sustainability Studies Program offers an undergraduate minor degree to students in any department or college on campus. We provide interdisciplinary, hands-on, community-engaged learning that informs students' academic work, future careers, and personal lives.

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What is LEED?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building types, LEED provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.

Did you know, The University of New Mexico has nearly 30 LEED buildings?

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What is commissioning?

Commissioning is a process that enhances the delivery of a project by verifying and documenting that the facility and all of its systems and assemblies are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated, and maintained to meet the owner’s project requirements (design intent). In addition to uncovering deficiencies in design or installation using peer review and field verification, commissioning also results in improved energy efficiency, environmental health, and occupant safety. 

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What are energy audits?

The purpose of an energy audit (sometimes called an “energy assessment” or “energy study”) is to determine where, when, why and how energy is used in a facility, and to identify opportunities to improve efficiency. Energy auditing services are offered by energy services companies (ESCOs), energy consultants and engineering firms. The energy auditor leads the audit process but works closely with building owners, staff and other key participants throughout to ensure accuracy of data collection and appropriateness of energy efficiency recommendation.

The American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) defines three levels of audits:

ASHRAE Level 1 – Walk-Through Analysis/Preliminary Audit

The Level 1 audit alternatively is called a simple audit, screening audit or walk-through audit and is the most basic. It involves minimal interviews with site operating personnel, a brief review of facility utility bills and other operating data, and a walk-through of the facility, all geared toward the identification of glaring areas of energy waste or inefficiency.

ASHRAE Level 2 – Energy Survey and Analysis

A Level 2 audit includes the preliminary ASHRAE Level 1 analysis, but also includes more detailed energy calculations and financial analysis of proposed energy efficiency measures. The financial analysis or Life Cycle Cost Analysis provides the facility owner with comprehensive understanding of the financial benefits of implementing specific energy efficiency measures.

ASHRAE Level 3 – Detailed Analysis of Capital Intensive Modifications

This level of engineering analysis focuses on the potential capital-intensive projects identified in the Level 2 analysis and involves more detailed field data gathering as well as a more rigorous engineering analysis. It provides detailed project cost and savings calculations with the high level of confidence required for major capital investment decisions. 

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What is a district energy system?

District energy systems are characterized by one or more central plants producing hot water, steam, and/or chilled water, which then flows through a network of insulated pipes to provide hot water, space heating, and/or air conditioning for nearby buildings. District energy systems serve a variety of end-use markets, including downtowns (central business districts), college and university campuses, hospitals and healthcare facilities, airports, military bases, and industrial complexes. By combining loads for multiple buildings, district energy systems create economies of scale that help reduce energy costs and enable the use of high-efficiency technologies such as combined heat and power (CHP). - Energy Technology Sheet

Learn more about Ford Utilities Center at UNM here:

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What is cogeneration?

Cogeneration or Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is an energy efficient technology that generates electricity and captures the heat that would otherwise be wasted to provide useful thermal energy—such as steam or hot water—that can be used for space heating, cooling, domestic hot water and industrial processes. CHP can be located at an individual facility or building, or be a district energy or utility resource. CHP is typically located at facilities where there is a need for both electricity and thermal energy.

Nearly two-thirds of the energy used by conventional electricity generation is wasted in the form of heat discharged to the atmosphere. Additional energy is wasted during the distribution of electricity to end users. By capturing and using heat that would otherwise be wasted, and by avoiding distribution losses, CHP can achieve efficiencies of over 80 percent, compared to 50 percent for typical technologies (i.e., conventional electricity generation and an on-site boiler).

Benefits of Cogeneration or Combined Heat and Power
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What are fossil fuels?

Fossil energy sources, including oil, coal and natural gas, are non-renewable resources that formed when prehistoric plants and animals died and were gradually buried by layers of rock. Over millions of years, different types of fossil fuels formed -- depending on what combination of organic matter was present, how long it was buried and what temperature and pressure conditions existed as time passed.

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What is solar energy?

Solar technologies convert sunlight into electrical energy either through photovoltaic (PV) panels or through mirrors that concentrate solar radiation. This energy can be used to generate electricity or be stored in batteries or thermal storage.

Solar radiation is light – also known as electromagnetic radiation – that is emitted by the sun. While every location on Earth receives some sunlight over a year, the amount of solar radiation that reaches any one spot on the Earth’s surface varies. Solar technologies capture this radiation and turn it into useful forms of energy.

There are two main types of solar energy technologies—photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP). 

Photovoltaics Basics

You're likely most familiar with PV, which is utilized in solar panels. When the sun shines onto a solar panel, energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the PV cells in the panel. This energy creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow.

Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Basics

Concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) systems use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat, which can then be used to produce electricity or stored for later use. It is used primarily in very large power plants.

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Energy Cost Avoidance and Usage Avoidance

Cost Avoidance is the Measurement and Verification (M&V) of energy and cost savings due to energy management projects. In other words, Cost Avoidance is the dollars that you avoided spending due to the implementation of energy management activities.

Cost avoidance works by comparing current bills with an adjusted baseline year. The adjustment process automatically takes into account major variables including weather (degree days), billing period length, floor area changes, commodity price, and special adjustments for other changes such as occupancy, schedule, and equipment retrofits. This enables you to compare energy use and cost from baseline to current.

UNM uses EnergyCAP software to determine the cost and usage avoidance. The absence of consumption or cost cannot be measured, therefore Cost Avoidance and use avoidance cannot be precisely measured. EnergyCAP's Cost Avoidance values are reasonable estimates derived from the internationally recognized ISO 50015 and EVO IPMVP guidelines.

Learn more about energy cost and usage avoidance at:

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Evaluation, Measurement and Verification

Evaluation, measurement, and verification (EM&V) is the collection of methods and processes used to assess the performance of energy efficiency activities so planned results can be achieved with greater certainty and future activities can be more effective.

The main objectives of an EM&V process are to assess the performance of an energy efficiency program or project, to measure the energy or demand savings, and to determine if the program is generating the expected level of savings. EM&V data can inform recommendations for improvements in program performance. Having a clear understanding and description of how the program is expected to deliver results is critical to an effective EM&V process.