DOE's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
At a Glance
The renovation of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's (WIPP's) engineering building included:
- Recycled-content products
- Energy-efficient products
- Less toxic substances
Not available online.
WIPP energy manager and pollution prevention committee, as well as engineers, chemical and lab managers, and construction managers.
Environmental Information Sources:
- FEMP homepage
- FEMP publications
- Internet research
- Trade publications
- Conferences and trade shows
- Other federal colleagues
- Product manufacturers
WIPP included a variety of green features including recycled-content carpeting, less toxic refrigerants and other substances, and energy-efficient lighting and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems.
Listed at the end of the case study.
The U.S. Department of Energy's(DOE's) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico, is a leader in waste management practices. This unique, rural, 60-building complex is the site of the world's first underground repository of transuranic wasteclothing,tools, rags, debris, and other items contaminated with radioactive materials during the research and production of nuclear weapons in the United States.The plant is also a leader in energy efficiency and environmental purchasing.In particular, the plant's newly renovated engineering building features a variety of innovative products.
Environmental Purchasing Process
In 1993, WIPP staff developed an affirmative procurement program to encourage environmental purchasing. Through this program, WIPP procurement officials are encouraged to buy"green" and receive training on purchasing products that are recyclable or that contain recycled materials, minimize energy use, and reduce toxicity. The plant also has a pollution prevention committee comprised of staff from several departments. The committee's primary goal is to promote awareness about waste minimization and opportunities for environmental purchasing. WIPP's energy manager collaborates with the committee as well as engineers, chemical and lab managers, and construction managers to research and identify new products that can be used at WIPP facilities.
Beginning in 1998, WIPP staff worked together to renovate the engineering building with a variety of environmental products. "Originally, we only planned to purchase recycled-content carpeting for the building, but we quickly recognized we could do much more," according to James Hedin, Energy Manager at WIPP. "With the building's occupants, furniture, and office cubicles removed from the building, we capitalized on the opportunity to add a number of energy-efficient products, as well."
To identify the new products,such as lamps, exit signs, and motors, WIPP's technical staff searched the Internet, read trade publications, attended conferences and trade shows, collaborated with federal colleagues, and spoke directly to manufacturers.WIPP staff were successful in finding environmental and energy-efficient products that met the technical requirements of the facility.
To evaluate new energy-efficientT-8 fluorescent lighting, the WIPP energy team conducted a pilot test at the building with a limited number of lighting fixtures. They assessed the ease of installation and evaluated how well the new fixtures integrated with the existing electrical system. They also asked plant employees if they noticed improved lighting output. Once the research was complete and the new products were approved, the energy manager and other technical staff wrote detailed specifications for each item.
Use of Energy-Efficient Products
The engineering building contains the following energy-efficient items:
- 200 T-8 fluorescent lamps and electronic ballasts.
- Light emitting diodes (LED) exit signs.
- Pump and fan motors.
- Heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) unit.
In addition, the renovated building contains post consumer recycled-content carpeting as well as high-reflectance paint. WIPP also substituted less toxic substances in a variety of applications such as HVAC refrigerants, solvents, and hand cleaners. As an additional feature, WIPP staff are currently in the process of installing direct digital controls for the HVAC system. Through the use of occupancy sensor sand other control measures, the HVAC system will meet building loads while reducing overall energy costs.
- Rural location. Because of the nature of the plant's work, WIPP is located in an extremely rural setting, making it difficult for product vendors to reach the facility. Although the energy manager was interested in purchasing energy-efficient variable frequency drives, for example, no companies in the area were able to service the equipment. Therefore, even more than at other federal facilities, product availability and customer service are key concerns for WIPP procurement officials.
- Stringent facility technical requirements. Some facilities at the plant are designed for specialized purposes and require specific equipment. The plant, for example, includes disposal rooms excavated in an ancient, stable salt formation 2,150 feet (nearly half a mile) underground. These rooms require very rigid temperature and lighting controls. Thus, products that might work for a typical government facility simply do not work in these specialized work environments.
- Low energy costs. According to the energy manager, the plant's overall energy costs are extremely lowapproximately $0.04 per kilowatt/hour. This leaves little financial incentive to implement new energy conservation projects. It can be difficult for WIPP staff to justify the expense of new energy-efficient productsespecially when they intend to replace a product that has not yet reached the end of its useful life. With this in mind, the energy manager recommends products that offer additional cost savings beyond energy costs such as lower purchasing, installation, maintenance and operation, and disposal costs.
- Verify all product marketing claims. Many manufacturers make claims about the environmental performance of their products. WIPP recommends carefully testing new products to verify manufacturers' marketing claims. The energy manager has tested dozens of new products, including some that did not perform as well as expected. Nevertheless, WIPP has learned from each experiencegaining a better understanding of the technology and the marketplace.
- Promote your success. Since its affirmative procurement program was established, WIPP's total environmental purchases have led to between $200,000 and $300,000 in savings, with the biggest savings resulting from its energy-efficient HVAC system. WIPP staff stress the importance of promoting these savings and the new technologies to others in the public and private sector to build awareness of environmental purchasing.
In the future, WIPP staff are reconsidering purchasing renewable energy sources for the plant. In particular,the energy managers are interested in using photovoltaic (PV) cells to produce heat for the hot water system. Also, the plant is interested in using PV cells for generating energy at remote locations such as control air monitors.
"The opportunities are limitless," Hedin said. "In general, we've had great success with energy efficiency and environmental purchasing and found the products to be cost-competitive. We want to continue to be a leader in this area." For more information on the plant's energy efficiency and environmental purchasing efforts, contact James Hedin at WIPP at 505 234-8411.