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Energy Facts

Energy Use at Caltech

Caltech is the City of Pasadena's oldest and largest customer.
Caltech produces most of its electricity, but also purchases natural gas and some electricity to heat and cool buildings, to operate equipment and to provide lighting. There are close to two miles of utility tunnels beneath the Institute carrying steam, hot and cold water, chilled water, compressed air, deionized water and communication lines feeding the over 100 buildings and support structures located on the Grounds.

Electricity: Most (80%) of the campus electricity is produced by Facility's 10 Megawatt gas turbine and 2.5 Megawatt Steam Turbine. The remaining electricity requirements are purchased from Pasadena Water and Power and supplied to three campus substations. Distribution of electricity from the substations to buildings is managed by Caltech. A few buildings on the perimeter of campus are served directly by Pasadena Water and Power.

Heating: Natural gas purchased by Caltech is used to run the 10 MW gas turbine and the heat exhausted from the combustion process is used to produce steam in the heat recovery steam generator. Steam is produced at about 300 psig and passes through a steam turbine generator. The steam from the exhaust of this turbine, at 55 to 65 psig, is piped to various buildings to provide comfort heat, to heat water for domestic use, and to heat water for the pools.

Cooling: Electricity is used to drive a number of large chillers. The chilled water that they produce is piped to campus buildings to provide cooling. Smaller chillers and air conditioners provide cooling to buildings not on the central chilled water loop.


Energy Improvements

  • The Combined cycle cogeneration plant was upgraded in 2004, is 80% efficient, and exceeds state emission reduction requirements.
  • There is an on going lighting retrofit program to energy efficient lamps. To date, 15 buildings have been completed.
  • There is an on going program to convert constant volume air conditioning systems to variable air volume systems. Moore and Watson Labs are completed.
  • There is an on going program to install variable frequency drives on pumps and exhaust fans. Central Plant is complete and many exhaust fans on campus have been completed.
  • All exit signs have been converted from incandescent or fluorescent to LED.
  • Air conditioning run times have been reduced in non-laboratory buildings.
  • Occupancy sensors are specified for new buildings and are being retrofitted in older buildings.
  • Irrigation water is monitored by an automatic control system.