Sustainable Campus: BSU Set to Save Thousands of Kilowatt-Hours of Energy

New LED lights in the Gillett Wellness Center

Through a partnership with Otter Tail Power Company, Bemidji State University is set to save thousands of kilowatt-hours of energy in the coming years.

Bemidji State facilities managers have worked jointly with Otter Tail’s Minnesota Conservation Improvement Program to complete energy saving projects across campus. Projects during the 2018-19 school year included replacing fluorescent light with LED bulbs in Deputy, Walnut, and Sattgast halls, the John Glas Field House, the A.C. Clark Library, the book store, Tamarack Hall elevators, the Gillett Wellness Center and other miscellaneous spots across campus.

“Facilities managers at BSU have been collaborating with Otter Tail Power Co. and Franklin Energy to determine methods to better manage energy resources,” Jordan Lutz, sustainability project manager, said. “Understanding where we can improve our energy efficiency has led to various projects, mostly involving control upgrades for lighting or heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.”

In the Gillette Wellness Center, approximately 199 light fixtures were replaced with LED lights. Estimates suggest the renovations in the wellness center alone should have a simple payback around three years and the potential to save the university over 300,000 kWh annually.

“Upgrading old metal halide fixtures to LED lights in the Gillett Wellness Center is particularly impactful, as it substantially reduces our
annual electrical consumption yet requires little to no behavior change. This is comparable to the electricity consumption of about 30 American households according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration,” Lutz said. “Not only does the switch save electricity and money, the new lights make the facility look great.”

For the 2019 school year, BSU plans to complete projects around campus to continue its energy saving initiatives. Projects this year include new lighting in renovated areas across campus and upgraded HVAC controls.

“We want to get as much done in 2019 as we possibly can,” Travis Barnes, director of facilities, said. “Our goal by the end of next year is to have about 85 percent of the campus completed.”

Minnesota Conservation Improvement Program

The Minnesota Conservation Improvement Program offers Ottertail Power customers the opportunity to save money and energy. Benefits extend to all customers through deferred utility infrastructure investments and less energy consumed.

Ottertail designed the program in 2016 to comply with The Next Generation Energy Act of 2007. The act sets an aggressive statewide energy-conservation goal of 1.5 percent of average annual Minnesota utility retail sales.

During 2016 Ottertail invested more than $7.8 million into the program and returned more than $49.7 million in lifetime net benefits to customers. Energy savings reached a record-breaking high of 57.6 million annual kWh of energy and more than 17.3 megawatts of demand. For the year, that is 2.75 percent of annual retail sales. At a lifetime cost of less than 14 cents per kWh conserved, the energy-efficiency programs continue to be a cost-effective resource for customers.

About Otter Tail Power Company

Otter Tail Power Company is an investor-owned electric utility that provides electricity for residential, commercial, and industrial customers in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The company is named after the Otter Tail River, which provided the first source of electricity when they became an operating utility in 1909. Hundreds of years ago the Ojibwe noted that a large sandspit follows the contour of the shoreline of a lake where the river flows into it. Because they thought this sandspit resembled the tail of an otter, the Native Americans named the lake Nigagwanoe, Otter Tail. By doing so, they also named a river, a village, a township, a county, anda power company.

  • Jordan Lutz, sustainability project manager; (218) 755-2979,

MN State logoBemidji State University, located amid the lakes and forests of northern Minnesota, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Enrolling more than 5,100 students, Bemidji State offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and eight graduate degrees encompassing arts, sciences and select professional programs. BSU is a member of the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities and has a faculty and staff of more than 550. The university’s Shared Fundamental Values include environmental stewardship, civic engagement and international and multicultural understanding. For more, visit or find us at BemidjiState on most of your favorite social media networks.