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St. Olaf named Xcel's No. 2 'Efficiency Partner'

By David Gonnerman '90
June 19, 2009

Xcel Energy, a leading provider of energy in eight states, has named St. Olaf College its No. 2 "Efficiency Partner" -- one of 56 businesses the company honored recently for participating in Xcel's 2008 efficiency programs. Collectively, the 56 businesses saved more than 80 million kWh, "enough to power 36 big box retail stores," according to Xcel. St. Olaf was noted in the "Top 10" list for having saved 6.91 million kWh. The college is the only institution of higher learning on the "Top 10" list.

The 200,000-square-foot Regents Hall was built using the highest standards of sustainable design.
St. Olaf also ranked No. 1 in natural gas efficiency, with 417,840 therms saved.

The college's high ranking is mostly due to the efficiency of the 200,000-square-foot Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences that opened last fall. The sustainably designed building is currently on track for "platinum" certification by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. "The outcome of this design approach is a 60 percent reduction in the energy requirements of Regents Hall below what they would have been if design had simply responded to the [Minnesota state building] code," says St. Olaf Assistant Vice President for Facilities Pete Sandberg.

Regents Hall's innovative features include:
  • A "green" chemistry curriculum that reduces or eliminates the use and generation of hazardous substances has resulted in huge volumes of air no longer needing to be heated and/or air-conditioned.
  • Efficient lighting and temperature control systems are programmed to reduce resource flows when spaces are not in use.
  • Large glazed areas use fritted glass to allow daylight and views while cutting down unwanted solar heat gain, and call for less lighting power consumption than would otherwise be needed.
  • The nature of the building and its use generates a lot of heat, and many spaces must be cooled year around. Outside of the college's air-conditioning season this is achieved through the use of economizers that -- to the greatest practical degree -- mix return air with cooler outside air.
  • A system was designed and installed to extract as much heat as possible from laboratory air that must be exhausted and then use this "waste" heat to pre-heat new, incoming air.
  • Highly reflective roofing materials and a planted roof reduce the air-conditioning load and help to reduce the "heat island" effect.
  • Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or