UW–Madison recognized for its water- and energy-saving initiatives


Charter Street Heating & Cooling Plant.
Charter Street Heating & Cooling Plant. Photo by Nathan Jandl.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison has received recognition for cutting-edge water and energy saving initiatives at the Charter Street Heating & Cooling Plant in the 2020 Sustainable Campus Index.

A publication from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Sustainable Campus Index highlights innovative and high-impact initiatives from colleges and universities that submitted a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) report in the most recent calendar year. The campus heating and cooling initiatives were submitted as part of the university’s first STARS report, for which UW–Madison merited a Silver rating.

The heating and cooling plant improvements stem from an improved cleaning system for heat exchangers covering over 50,000 tons of the campus’ central plant chillers.

“Maintaining clean heat exchangers year-round has reduced energy and cooling costs by 8-12%,” says Jeff Pollei, director of utilities and energy management. “In addition, we removed chlorine from our lake water supply process cooling system, which now allows over 70 million gallons of wastewater per year to be diverted from the sanitary sewer back to the lake.”

In the future, permit revisions could help keep nearly 100 million gallons of water per year out of the sanitary sewer. Excess water in the sewer system has to be cleaned and processed by the municipal sewer district, an energy intensive process.

The improvements at the Charter Street Heating & Cooling Plant reflect the university’s ongoing dedication to institutional sustainability. In 2019, Chancellor Rebecca Blank signed the Second Nature Resilience Commitment, which will help UW–Madison to mitigate and prepare for the impacts of climate change. In addition, Provost Karl Scholz and Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Laurent Heller established the Sustainability Advisory Council, which held its first meeting in October 2020. The SAC will generate a set of prioritized recommendations to help drive sustainability progress at UW–Madison in the coming years.


By: Nathan Jandl