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The ‘R’ Word

A microgrid would be helpful in islanding the Middle East region from problems, says Tom Nyquist, Executive Director, Facilities Engineering & Campus Energy, Princeton University, in this interview with Ranjana Konatt of Climate Control Middle East. Excerpts from the interview, in which he provides an overview on the upcoming opportunities to contribute to the goal of achieving a net-zero carbon footprint…

| | Feb 10, 2019 | 5:26 pm
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Tom Nyquist, Executive Director, Facilities Engineering & Campus Energy, Princeton University

How would you rate the attentiveness to energy efficiency in the United States? And what influence has Princeton University had in the broader scope of things?

The overall attentiveness to energy efficiency in the United States is high. It might be surprising to someone from a different country, but the work being done by us is met with resistance from institutions in the region. Nevertheless, as an organisation, we are going our own way.

Could you highlight the energy efficiency-related improvements on campus since 2012 – the watershed year of sorts, for the manner in which Princeton was able to respond to the turmoil Superstorm Sandy presented?

Since 2012, we have had capital accounts worth USD 45 million set up toward energy efficiency. A project manager investigates and works on projects, while carving out funding for the project. It is then sent to the Vice President of Facilities for approval. We have been working on projects as the demand has increased. We have a carbon goal and are trying to bring down the number of emissions. To give you an idea, in the year 1990, we had 6.3 million square feet of buildings with us, and today we have 9.3 million, which is almost a 50% increase.

What can the Middle East region learn from projects, such as at Princeton, with regard to cutting the carbon footprint?

Speaking and educating people on energy efficiency remains the number one challenge. The United Arab Emirates – or Dubai, to be specific – has a very reliable grid, as all the cables are underground. However, the advantage of having a microgrid is that it contributes greatly to energy efficiency. It gives you the ability to have your own backup system, which not only operates at a much higher efficiency but also enables the use of heat for heat generation through winter. In countries where heating and cooling are a necessity, steam can effectively be used to drive chillers at a high efficiency rate.

How can microgrids improve resiliency in the UAE in emergency situations?

In the United Arab Emirates, a microgrid would be helpful in islanding the region from problems. However, it is a space that needs policy and regulation.

What are the upcoming opportunities for Princeton University to contribute to reducing its carbon footprint? Are there any new methods being adopted?

We have a heating-dominated climate, and we have cooling. We intend to move away from a steam system, which is combustion-based. For climate change, one of the things you got to do is get rid of combustion, unless you want to combust bio-fuels, which we don’t really want. New Jersey is also thinking of using wind energy, and we want to bring this kind of renewable energy to power the campus.


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