7th Annual Green Energy Challenge: Iowa State Cyclones Bring Home Second Win

In August, ELECTRI International selected three NECA student chapters as finalists for the 2015 Green Energy Challenge. Out of 17 proposals the panel selected Iowa State University, Pennsylvania State University and the Illinois Institute of Technology as finalists, providing each student chapter with a $2,000 travel award.

On Saturday, Oct. 3, the teams faced the jury of NECA member contactors and industry partners at the annual NECA Convention and Trade Show in San Francisco. Each team developed a backup power system and resiliency plan for an existing facility demonstrating critical power needs. Each student chapter had 15 minutes to present and an additional 10 minutes to field project questions from the judges and convince the panel that their design and project proposal delivered the most significant payback and long term energy efficiency.

For the second year in a row the Iowa State Cyclone Energy Team captured first place and a $4,000 cash prize from ELECTRI.

The winning proposal

Cyclone Energy selected Iowa State’s Administrative Services Building (ASB) as the target facility. Housing one of the university’s two datacenters, uninterrupted power is critical to ASB’s operations. The students interviewed ASB employees to assess their needs and determine how the project could improve the overall health and wellness of occupants. Outdated fluorescent fixtures created uneven distribution and shadowy workspaces for employees. In response Cyclone Energy went to work to develop a LED lighting retrofit, including 400 fixtures with occupancy sensors and further daylight harvesting.

Part of the project plan also incorporated a critical load and microgrid analysis. Cyclone Energy’s design included the implementation of more than 442 solar modules to generate 143 kilowatts of renewable energy.

No project is feasible without an estimate, schedule and financing course of action. Cyclone Energy students worked to develop an accurate project cost, attractive payback period and a schedule utilizing summer months to minimize disruption and downtime. ASB will remain operational throughout the LED retrofit and solar array installation.

As a nonprofit university, Cyclone Energy turned to the Iowa Energy Bank Loan to secure low-interest financing for the project, providing energy audit documentation.

Project stats

Total project cost: just over $1 million

Duration: 165 calendar days

Projected completion: September 2016

Payback period: 9.3 years with an annual savings of more than $67,000 per year

Iowa State was named the winner of the Green Energy Challenge at the Opening General Session of NECA 2015  in San Francisco Sunday, Oct. 4.

This annual event helps engage student chapters across the country, challenging them to develop real-life proposals, sharpen professional oral and written communication skills and develop future leaders in energy-efficient project planning and design.


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