The University of Louisville’s energy-saving efforts are going even better than expected.

U of L is in the middle of a long-term project to cut the university’s energy consumption and carbon footprint. The effort was launched in 2009, and since then, workers have been updating lighting, heating and cooling systems, and reducing water consumption.

Now, the university is reporting that a progress report shows significant savings already. From U of L:

Fuel use on UofL’s Belknap Campus dropped 48 percent while electricity and water use dropped 27 and 31 percent, respectively, from their annual usage before the project started. The numbers were released last week in a report measuring energy savings in 2011, the first full year after improvements were completed.

At the start of the project, engineers predicted fuel use on the campus would drop nearly 40 percent and electricity use, at least 20 percent.

The overall reduction in energy use has trimmed the greenhouse gas emissions emitted on Belknap Campus by an annual 53 million pounds, an amount equal to removing 4,400 cars from the road for a year, officials said.

The university is paying for the upgrades with the money it saves in lower energy costs.