Newswise — About 200 miles of utilities — water, sewer, electrical, steam, gas, telecom and more — line the Argonne campus, or roughly the distance between Washington, D.C., and New York. It’s a lot to tackle when seeking full decarbonization.

Despite the challenges that come with this immense network, Argonne remains committed to sustainability as it honors Earth Day on April 22 and builds toward full decarbonization.

Argonne pledged to achieve full decarbonization by 2050 under the federal government’s Executive Order 14057. That means a reduction in energy, waste and emissions throughout its 1,500-acre campus. Argonne already aims to halve its carbon footprint by 2030 and is committed to net-zero emissions by 2045, including a 50% emissions reduction by 2032.

“To achieve our ambitious decarbonization goals, our team is dedicated to collaborating with the lab community to promote energy efficiency, support initiatives that optimize our operations and further expand the use of renewable energy in our buildings,” said Argonne’s Sustainability Project Manager Jofrey Quintanar. ​“It’s crucial to envision our success in this endeavor and to inspire others to join us on this journey.”

But like many journeys, it won’t be easy. Some buildings are decades old and will need significant retrofits over a long period and securing carbon pollution-free electricity will be critical to meet the goals. Retrofit projects typically need to focus on heating, ventilation and air conditioning, said Argonne’s Sustainability Program Manager Karyn Andersen.

“To achieve our ambitious decarbonization goals, our team is dedicated to collaborating with the lab community to promote energy efficiency, support initiatives that optimize our operations and further expand the use of renewable energy in our buildings. It’s crucial to envision our success in this endeavor and to inspire others to join us on this journey.” — Argonne’s Sustainability Project Manager Jofrey Quintanar

“Yet this is an exciting time for sustainability work and Argonne is well positioned to meet DOE’s goals today and in the future,” said Andersen.

Here are some of the top ways that Argonne is securing that future and encouraging others to learn more about sustainability:

1. Keeping it cozy

Argonne wants to reduce fossil fuel use in buildings and decarbonize its entire infrastructure. Using waste heat recovery strategies in Argonne’s buildings reduces the steam load from the central heating plant powered by natural gas, replaces steam with heat from recovery chillers driven by electricity and reduces water demand from cooling towers.

Two of Argonne’s powerful DOE Office of Science user facilities, the Advanced Photon Source (APS) and the Aurora supercomputer, are among the lab’s largest energy consumers. APS is one of most productive X-ray light source facilities in the world. A new heat recovery system being installed at APS that could be completed later this year will take heat extracted from the process water that circulates through the magnets along the APS ring and couple it with the facility’s overall heating to save energy. The APS waste heat recovery system will allow Argonne to avoid 1,350 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually.

Aurora is expected to eject a considerable amount of waste heat as it maintains optimal operating temperatures. A feasibility study shows the use of Aurora’s waste heat could heat nearby facilities. If implemented, the Aurora waste heat recovery system would allow Argonne to avoid 1,089 metric tons of CO2 annually.

2. Eco-friendlier buildings

Argonne has over 5.3 million gross square feet of real estate with over 800,000 gross square feet documented as high-performance sustainable buildings, including six that are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified, the world’s most widely used green building rating system. On average, the laboratory facilities are very energy intensive and consume between four to six times more energy than a typical commercial building. Argonne strives to reduce fossil fuel use in buildings and to avoid negative impacts to the environment and its occupants.

Argonne’s high-performance sustainable buildings include energy and water conservation measures that operate more efficiently; in addition, the construction uses materials with a lower environmental impact. The indoor environmental quality is better for workers’ health and well-being as well and enhances the overall resiliency in Argonne’s operations. Eight energy and conservation measures were approved last year through the reinvestment program, an innovative energy program that saves money and reinvests it in similar projects around the campus. Since the program started in 2008, Argonne has invested about $11 million in such measures, and they have generated about $2.1 million in annual cost savings.

3. Planning a better future

Argonne is designing a new chilled water plant to replace aging infrastructure, meet future load requirements and enhance resiliency. Argonne aims to minimize or offset the carbon footprint impact of the new facility to continue making progress towards its goal to decarbonize campus operations by 2050.

Besides ensuring the new building complies with the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Buildings, the facility will incorporate a water source heat pump and back-up electric heat to avoid natural gas consumption.

4. Keeping the lights on

The lab maintains four on-site renewable assets — three solar installations and one wind turbine — generating 144,484 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, or the equivalent of about 12 homes’ electricity use per year. Argonne is projected to increase its electrical load to nearly 600,000 megawatt hours (MWh) annually, or the equivalent of about 49,367 homes’ electrical use per year, mainly because of Aurora, one of the nation’s first exascale supercomputers.

Argonne’s Sustainability Program conducted a site feasibility study to identify solar renewable energy opportunities as part of a comprehensive renewable energy master plan. The report identified over 20 campus sites where solar panels could be installed, generating up to 44,500 MWh per year of electricity. As an initial step, the Sustainability Program is funding the final design services for the installation of solar photovoltaic panels near the APS.

5. Take your electric vehicle to work … every day

Argonne provides its employees with electric vehicle charging stations on campus to encourage sustainable commutes to the lab, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps the lab meet its sustainability goals. There are over 50 electric vehicle charging ports around campus and the Sustainability Program administers the employee charging program, which has over 180 participating employees. Upgrades to charging stations across the lab will help meet demand as the number of electric vehicles continues to grow, keep up with new technologies while overcoming infrastructure challenges and more effectively track and manage electricity usage. Additionally, the Sustainability Program partners with Argonne’s Transportation and Power Systems division, which applies data from employee electric vehicle charging to its research.

“I am working to provide Argonne employees, site users, and visitors innovative and environmentally friendly options getting to and around our campus,” said Argonne’s Campus Mobility Coordinator Michael Walczak.

6. Greening the fleet

Argonne maintains a full fleet of light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles plus a variety of equipment throughout the campus. These include 114 on-road vehicles and 289 pieces of equipment. Under the federal government’s Executive Order 14057, Argonne must transition its fleet to 100% zero-emission vehicle acquisitions by 2035 and 100% light-duty acquisitions by 2027.

Argonne has a Zero Emissions Vehicle Transition Plan to complete the fleet’s transition, meet federal requirements and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts. To date, Argonne has actively converted about 90% of its 114-fleet vehicles to bio-based and electric fuel, leading to a 25% reduction in fuel use from non-roadway vehicles and equipment since 2005.

7. Award-winning fleet

Argonne is a DOE leader in transitioning its fleet to meet zero-emissions requirements. The lab earned the first annual DOE Green Fleet Award for its efforts toward implementing a zero-emissions fleet. This award came with a $100,000 grant to support Argonne’s continuing efforts in this space.

Argonne also aims to achieve net-zero emissions fleet acquisitions by 2035. The lab’s robust network of electric vehicle charging stations support electric fleet vehicles, enabling it to add more electric vehicles as they become available.

8. Improving mobility options

With thousands of employees, site users and visitors coming to Argonne’s campus every day, the lab is tasked with finding efficient, environmentally friendly mobility solutions. Argonne’s location in a largely car-dependent part of the region offers a challenge to provide efficient mobility options to campus while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Once on campus, employees and visitors are looking for efficient, equitable and inclusive transportation between destinations.

Argonne works with public transit agencies and private companies to provide multiple options to get to and around the campus. These include carpool and vanpool matching, public transit support and electric vehicle chargers. On campus, a free bike-sharing program and walking paths are available. Argonne also launched a pilot shuttle program to get between campus destinations. Demand for sustainable mobility options continues to grow.

9. Protecting wildlife

The Argonne site is surrounded by hundreds of acres of wilderness including 500 acres of woodlands, 330 acres of grassland and prairie, 50 acres of wetlands and other habitats. Argonne protects and enhances the habitats of known present, threatened, and endangered species and conducts continuous monitoring of the site in search of the other species.

For example, the site hosts the endangered species, the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, which uses the wetlands and complex landscape as a reproductive habitat and respite from predators. Argonne proactively manages its precious natural resources to reduce invasive species populations and maintain habitat integrity and native species populations.

10. Zero waste

Argonne is committed to achieving a net-zero building emissions portfolio by 2045, which will include waste reductions. Argonne began the development of a zero-waste roadmap to inform future investment and action. Argonne currently has an overall diversion rate of 67.5%.

The lab also plans to expand its composting program into new buildings and work with its research programs to identify new waste streams for diversion.

The Argonne Leadership Computing Facility provides supercomputing capabilities to the scientific and engineering community to advance fundamental discovery and understanding in a broad range of disciplines. Supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science, Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, the ALCF is one of two DOE Leadership Computing Facilities in the nation dedicated to open science.

About the Advanced Photon Source

The U. S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory is one of the world’s most productive X-ray light source facilities. The APS provides high-brightness X-ray beams to a diverse community of researchers in materials science, chemistry, condensed matter physics, the life and environmental sciences, and applied research. These X-rays are ideally suited for explorations of materials and biological structures; elemental distribution; chemical, magnetic, electronic states; and a wide range of technologically important engineering systems from batteries to fuel injector sprays, all of which are the foundations of our nation’s economic, technological, and physical well-being. Each year, more than 5,000 researchers use the APS to produce over 2,000 publications detailing impactful discoveries, and solve more vital biological protein structures than users of any other X-ray light source research facility. APS scientists and engineers innovate technology that is at the heart of advancing accelerator and light-source operations. This includes the insertion devices that produce extreme-brightness X-rays prized by researchers, lenses that focus the X-rays down to a few nanometers, instrumentation that maximizes the way the X-rays interact with samples being studied, and software that gathers and manages the massive quantity of data resulting from discovery research at the APS.

This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S. DOE Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.