operations center boards

Conserving Energy

Energy Management at Penn

The University of Pennsylvania has committed to the goal of achieving 100% carbon neutrality by 2042, a goal we call 100 x 42. The Operations and Maintenance Department, within the Division of Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES), works with the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee's Utilities and Operations Subcommittee to identify and execute funded projects that meet this goal.

Conservation Initiatives

Solar power

Solar Power Purchase Agreement

In 2020, the University of Pennsylvania signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the creation of a solar power project moving the University significantly closer to meeting its commitment of a 100% carbon-neutral campus by 2042.

The agreement (consisting of two contracts) will result in the construction in central Pennsylvania of two new solar energy facilities with a combined capacity of 220 megawatts, which is projected to produce approximately 450,000 MWh of electricity annually. Penn will purchase all electricity produced at the sites – equal to about 70% of the total electricity demand of the academic campus and the University of Pennsylvania Health System – for 25 years at a rate competitive with conventional electricity prices. The project partner, Radnor, Pennsylvania-based Community Energy, expects this to be the largest solar power project in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Penn intends to retire all Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Credits produced by the project, meaning that the solar power generated will be above and beyond Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard requirements, and will be key to meeting the campus’ carbon reduction goals.

Penn Building

Century Bond Program

The implementation of the Century Bond program will allow Penn to accelerate building renovation programs. This program includes two key components: first, $300M worth of funds were raised through bond sales in the spring of 2013, and secondly, a rigorous analysis was conducted of Penn buildings and building systems to determine how best to use the available bond funding. Nine buildings have been identified for HVAC and systems replacements, and 45 buildings are slated for comprehensive lighting upgrades.

FRES Operations Control Center

Operations Command Center

Penn saves more than $5-million annually in energy costs through state-of the-art central monitoring and control of utilities. From its Operations Command Center, Penn engineers can control campus-wide chilled water and steam utilities, and air-handling systems in buildings across the campus. Through sophisticated temperature/time optimization, temperature setback, and demand management techniques, Penn is able to avoid costly peak utility charges and conserve energy year-round.

Mod VII Chiller Plant

Chilled Water Loop

Campus buildings are fed from a central chilled water loop completed in 2007 after 19 years of planned incremental growth and an investment of over $200 million. Penn's chiller plant freezes water at night when energy costs are low to provide supplemental daytime cooling capacity, reducing Penn's burden on the regional electrical grid and saving money. By the end of 2015, there are plans to expand the existing building with 10,000 tons of new steam-driven chillers and associated cooling towers.

TC Chan Center

Center for Environmental Building and Design Partnership

The Center for Environmental Building and Design, formerly known as the T.C. Chan Center for Building Simulation and Energy Studies, is a faculty-led research group in Penn’s School of Design with a long history of providing assistance to the University’s sustainability efforts. The Center completed the initial carbon emissions inventory for Penn in 2005, and since the launch of the 2009 Climate Action Plan has consulted on a variety of energy efficiency projects, including the creation of the Penn Carbon Calculator. In FY14, the Center was commissioned to provide the technical analysis of the building renovation and recommissioning proposals included in this plan, and assisted in the development of the carbon reduction goals. The Center’s findings were documented in Energy, Carbon, and Financial Analysis of Climate Action Plan Scenarios for Buildings.



The goal of Penn’s Recommissioning Program, established in 2010, is to “tune up” existing building systems back to the level at which they were designed to operate. The program assesses campus building performance and then recommends targeted maintenance and repair.

As a result of the Recommissioning Program, Penn has been able to identify common Energy Saving Opportunities (ESOs) across campus. Many of these ESOs can be applied to all buildings on campus, including items like discharge air temperature reset on air handling units and the adjustment of ventilation rates to current standards. Identifying and addressing recurring ESOs throughout campus has been an important contribution to the Recommissioning Program.