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Cool Campus collaboration creates green savings for UC

freezerWhether you’re doing scientific research or trying to save the university money, it pays to keep your cool.

Over the past three months, both UCOP and campus procurement and sustainability staff have worked with ThermoFisher Scientific to place 71 new highly energy-efficient ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers on UC campuses. Each of these ULTs replaces a conventional freezer that can consume as much as 19 kWh/day – enough to power a single family home!

Campuses were able to purchase the energy-efficient ULT freezers at a significantly reduced price, creating a win-win for sustainability and procurement — both costs and energy consumption were reduced.

In a life science lab, cold storage can consume an astounding 60-80 percent of plug load electricity, making that equipment a prime target to help meet UC’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2025.

Conventional ULT freezers (defined as minus 70 degrees or colder) can cost $700 to $1,000 per year to run, a cost that is often not directly paid by the research lab. Multiply that by the over 1,000 ULT research freezers that just one UC campus may have running at any given time and the cost is considerable over our multi-campus system.

While more energy-efficient ULT models have come on the market in recent years, they were scarce on UC campuses before this initiative. The purchase price of ULTs can be twice as much as conventional freezers, making campuses reluctant to replace existing equipment. Lack of awareness about alternatives among researchers and uneven sales coordination also contributed to a slow transition to energy-efficient units.

Working with ThermoFisher for a “First for the UC” program, UC Procurement was able to reduce the price of each freezer by $4,000, with free haul-away and decommissioning of old energy-guzzling units. Campus sustainability teams developed programs to support the transition, such as UCSF’s offer of an additional $5,000 per freezer rebate to replace old ULT models.

During the three-month initiative, 71 ThermoFisher freezers were purchased across nine campuses. As a result, UC will save an estimated $689,000 in product, transportation, incentive, decommissioning and energy costs over 10 years.

Enthusiasm, teamwork among multiple UC departments and suppliers, marketing collaboration and competitive pricing all drove the success of the project, which will make a significant contribution towards greener UC laboratories for years to come.

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