A recent article in the Rochester Business Journal features the Colleges’ announcement that 100 percent of the electricity on campus is generated by wind energy.
“We’re looking at how we can make a dent, and the first thing we look at is becoming more efficient, but even in doing that we’re still emitting carbon,” says Professor of Economics Tom Drennen, who is also co-chair of the Climate Task Force and former chair of the environmental studies program. “So the next question is how can we offset that, and that’s where wind comes in.”
The article notes, “Hobart and William Smith started purchasing renewable energy credits in 2002, becoming the first higher education institution in the state to use wind energy. The Colleges view the push toward carbon neutrality as a community wide effort, with student buy-in a pivotal part of the goal.”
The full article follows.
Rochester Business Journal
Hobart and William Smith hit green milestone
Colleges now draw all of their electricity from wind energy
Nate Dougherty • November 25, 2011
When the lights are on at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, credit the wind. The colleges announced this week that 100 percent of electricity on campus now comes from wind energy, making it the first small liberal arts college in the state to be powered entirely by wind. To achieve this, the colleges purchase 12,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy certificates from supplier Community Energy Inc.
The colleges are part of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, a nation wide pledge to reduce carbon emissions on campus and eventually become carbon-neutral. Part of Hobart and William Smith’s plan was to supply 100 percent of the energy on campus with wind, which was achieved three years ahead of schedule.
“We’re looking at how we can make a dent, and the first thing we look at is becoming more efficient, but even in doing that we’re still emitting carbon,” said Thomas Drennen, co-chairman of the Climate Task Force and former chairman of the environmental studies program. “So the next question is how can we offset that, and that’s where wind comes in.”
Hobart and William Smith join several other participating local colleges and universities as they move past the first phase of the commitment-developing an institutional structure to guide the plan’s implementation and development-and start taking concrete actions towards becoming carbon-neutral. Climate action plans have been submitted by Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY College and Genesco and Finger Lakes Community College; at Houghton College and Monroe Community College, plans are due within two years.
Hobart and William Smith started purchasing renewable energy credits in 2002, becoming the first higher education institution in the state to use wind energy. The colleges view the push toward carbon neutrality as a community wide effort, with student buy-in a pivotal part of the goal.
“It was actually the students who came up with the proposal to use 100 percent wind energy,” Drennen said. “I’ve been adamant that I want all projects to start with students, so they have involvement every step of the way and they not only buy into that we’re doing, but can learn about it in their curriculum.”
A student group also proposed the idea of composting organic waste created on campus. Drennen said he was skeptical at first, but soon saw the potential of the idea and found a firm that could help with the process. The colleges now compost 1.8 tons of organic waste each week.
The push towards carbon neutrality is proceeding at RIT as well, where in September the university released its climate action plan, laying out a framework to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. It will be updated every two years with new metrics and details on RIT’s progress toward reducing emissions.
For RIT, the quest to become carbon neutral is a continual progression, with the emphasis now on starting the conversation about how to reach the goal, said Enid Cardinal, senior sustainability adviser to the president at RIT.
“We’re continually evolving, and since we released our plan in September, it’s given us a focus on how to center our sustainability efforts; both academically and administratively,” Cardinal said. “It’s helped us root our actions into a strategic goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2030, so now, when we talk about what the campus will look like in 20 years, we want carbon neutrality to make up a big part of that.”
RIT already has taken steps to increase its energy efficiency, installed storm water management features and purchases 34 percent of its food locally. As Cardinal notes, much of RIT’s plan so far is intentionally vague, because the university knows that many of the blanks will be filled in during the coming decade.
This is where RIT itself steps in, Cardinal said. Home of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability and New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, RIT will provide much of the academic research on how to reduce emissions and achieve carbon neutrality, she said.
“If you talk to anyone about how to get carbon neutrality, you see that right now it’s just a framework,” cardinal said. “We don’t have an answer on how to get there, but we’re going to be heavily reliant on the research that our faculty and staff are doing. Right now current technology that exists is too costly to do in a responsible way, other than just purchasing carbon offsets.”
For Hobart and William Smith, part of the challenge is taking behind-the-scenes efforts and presenting them in a way students and community can understand. Drennen said the colleges are considering placing a few small wind turbines on campus, not so much to produce energy, but to make alternative energy more tangible.
“We might put a sign by the turbines that shows how each one powers all the energy in one classroom,” Drennen said.
The college now uses biodiesel-fueled trucks and puts signs on them showing how the fuel comes from cafeteria food waste.
For RIT, sustainability also is an important aspect of its academic offerings. This fall the university added a master of architecture program with a focus on sustainability, and a new building is being constructed to house Golisano Institute of Sustainability.
Although RIT does not have a defined roadmap for arriving at carbon neutrality, signing onto the commitment is important in signaling its willingness to achieve the goal, Cardinal said. It takes universities like RIT to help change the national perspective on carbon emissions she added.
Part of that effort at RIT is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification fir all of its new buildings, making energy efficiency an important standard for the university’s future and also saving money: 80 percent of the cost of a building is for its maintenance and utilities, cardinal said.
“With so much uncertainty in the marketplace and challenges Washington is facing, this is signaling something we’re committees to, and that commitment means we will be looking at the long-term investments,” she said. “Universities have a unique opportunity because of our place in communities, our permanence. We’re not just putting up buildings and walking away; we’re making buildings that we plan to occupy for 40, 50, 100 years.”