Running a Campus on Wind Energy – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Running a Campus on Wind Energy

Wind energy now supplies 100 percent of the electricity used at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, making HWS the first small liberal arts college in New York to be powered solely by wind. The capability is part of a new agreement between Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Community Energy, Inc., a renewable energy marketer and developer.  The Colleges have begun purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates equal to 100 percent of the campus’ electricity use, or 12,000 megawatt hours of electricity, which will be matched annually with wind energy entering the electricity grid in the United States.

As a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, the Colleges have reached their goal of being powered by 100 percent renewable energy three years ahead of schedule. Early supporters of renewable energy, Hobart and William Smith Colleges have been purchasing wind renewable energy credits since 2002 and were the first institute of higher education in New York to use wind power as an alternative energy source. This commitment has increased, culminating in the 100 percent purchase. 

“This is an exciting and significant milestone in our effort to reduce the Colleges’ impact on the environment and achieve climate neutrality by 2025,” says HWS President Mark D. Gearan. “And like many good ideas at Hobart and William Smith, this one came directly from our students.”

The renewable energy purchasing review and recommendation was initiated by Maeve Donnelly ’13 and Noah Lucas ’13. After working on a project analyzing alternative energy options, the two submitted a proposal on wind energy to the President’s Climate Task Force, made up of students, faculty and staff.

“Their thoughtful proposal took into account both the impact on the environment and the cost to the Colleges,” says Professor of Economics Tom Drennen, the co-chair of the Climate Task Force and former chair of the Environmental Studies program.  

Compared to the average power generation mix in the national electric grid, the environmental benefit from the Colleges’ purchase is equal to offsetting approximately 8,275 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. The annual impact is equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 1,764 acres of trees, or removing 1,622 passenger vehicles from the road, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator.

“At a time when national renewable energy policy is faltering, Hobart and William Smith Colleges are stepping up as a leader and choosing wind power for the campus,” said Jay Carlis, Community Energy vice president.  “As more organizations and individuals choose wind power, together we can build a clean energy future.”

Environmental sustainability is a core value at HWS. With a unique program that allows students and faculty to use the physical campus as a laboratory to explore environmental impact mitigation strategies, the HWS Sustainability Program enables and encourages students to link classroom learning to real world application, which plays a direct role in the environmental performance of the Colleges.

In the photo above, Maeve Donnelly ’13 and HWS Sustainability Coordinator Jamie Landi stand among the pinwheels that they placed in front of the Scandling Campus Center to draw attention to the Colleges move to rely solely on wind energy.