MILWAUKEE - Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tenn., has signed an $89 million energy savings performance contract with Johnson Controls Inc. to apply advanced energy conservation solutions, including a biomass gasification system, at the campus.

This project is the first signed initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Transformational Energy Action Management (TEAM) initiative, which is an action plan to significantly transform DOE’s energy, environmental, and transportation management. TEAM aims to meet or exceed the aggressive energy efficiency goals set forth by the federal government, fundamentally changing the way the DOE manages energy use in its facilities.

“By working with Johnson Controls, Oak Ridge National Laboratory will achieve its long-term energy reduction goals far earlier than expected while saving millions of taxpayer dollars,” said ORNL Director Thom Mason. “We are dedicated to alternative energy sources. Being able to tap renewable energy for our facility is a great way to see our purpose realized.”

As the project’s cornerstone, a wood gasification biomass system will take the place of the existing natural gas steam plant and steam distribution system. By using woody biomass from the region as the main energy source for the facilities, ORNL is expected to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 80 percent. Furthermore, the biomass plant significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions equal to planting 32 million trees.

Overall, ORNL will benefit from an innovative suite of energy efficiency solutions including the installation of a “super boiler,” advanced electric metering, energy efficient lighting, water conservation measures, compressed air cooling, comprehensive HVAC improvements, and a building management system to ensure that mission critical standards are maintained.

According to Johnson Controls, by eliminating more than 1.5 miles of steam piping and using enhanced technology, the “super boiler” will be up to 94 percent efficient. This is a significant improvement when compared to traditional boilers which operate 50 to 60 percent efficiently. The water conservation measures will also reduce water usage by more than 115 million gallons annually, resulting in a long-term reduction of 16 percent. As a whole, the entire project will reduce energy intensity in the labs and office buildings by 30 percent, meeting ORNL’s long-term energy reduction goal and significantly contributing to the goals of the TEAM initiative.

It is estimated that the biomass gasification system, “super boiler,” and energy efficiency improvements will generate $8 million annually in energy and operational savings. As a result, ORNL expects to save more than $144 million over the 18 year term of the contract.

No definitive date has been set for breaking ground on the project; however, completion is scheduled for sometime in 2011.

For additional information, visit

Publication date:08/25/2008