“Watts up?” Energy Awareness Month. “Watts up” is the more than 30 million kilowatt-hours of electricity used last month at NIH. That comes to a bill of over $4.5 million.
Despite this consumption, NIH is a leader in energy management. NIH purchases over 3 percent of its energy from renewable sources, which are non-fossil fuel sources. In the D.C. area, most energy is generated from burning fossil fuels, which releases contaminants into the air. These airborne contaminants lead to elevated rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases. Purchase of renewable energy reduces contaminant load and encourages increased availability of renewable energy sources.
NIH is also continually auditing existing facilities to identify opportunities to add sustainable features that use less energy. New facilities are also being designed to be “green” or to use less energy. For example, the new Visitor Center on Rockville Pike will have a “green roof” that will not only save energy, but also filter pollutants from stormwater runoff. Green roofs are made of a lightweight soil media, underlain by a drainage layer and an impermeable membrane that protects the building structure. The soil is dotted with a special mix of plants that, together with the soil, provides insulation to the building.
But everyone has a responsibility when it comes to energy conservation. Did you know that turning off two computers at night and on weekends is the equivalent of removing one car from the road for one year? So, look at your actions this month and challenge yourself to find ways to conserve energy in your job and at home. Turning off lights when you leave the room, shutting off equipment when you’re not using it—these should come as naturally to you as putting on your seatbelt when you get in your car.
Even screen savers are energy hogs, so turn off your monitor instead. You can also switch computer settings to sleep mode and unplug equipment such as phone chargers that use energy even when not in use. Nationally, these energy “vampires” use 5 percent of our domestic energy. In the laboratory, close fume hood sashes to minimize airflow when not in use. Close or tilt window blinds to block direct sunlight in the warmer months and consider use of Metro, bikes or carpools. While your actions may seem insignificant, the combined efforts of all NIH employees have substantial, meaningful results.
NIH’s Environmental Management System (NEMS) is a strategy that aims at minimizing our impact on the environment by challenging employees to use healthier alternatives in getting their jobs done. NEMS is sponsoring a lunchtime brown bag series on environmental topics. The film Kilowatt Ours will be shown to kick off the series at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 18 in Bldg. 50, Rm. 1328/1334.
In this film, you’ll take a journey from the coal mines of West Virginia to the solar panels of Florida to discover solutions to America’s energy problems. The 30-minute documentary provides a hopeful look at how energy conservation and renewable power can help improve the quality of life in the U.S. Kilowatt Ours also provides practical ideas for you to lower your energy bills at home, showcasing successful examples of homes that are saving hundreds—even thousands—of dollars annually on their energy bills.