Hobart and William Smith Colleges have redoubled their commitment to a campus powered entirely by renewable energy. The Colleges have resigned a 2011 agreement with the renewable energy marketing and developing company, Community Energy, Inc., that made HWS the first small liberal arts college in New York to be powered solely by wind. The 13,000 megawatt hours of electricity the Colleges use annually will be matched with wind energy entering the country’s electricity grid.
Compared to the average power generation mix in the national electric grid, the environmental benefit from the Colleges’ purchase is equal to offsetting approximately 8,964 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. The annual impact is equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 7,348 acres of trees, or removing 1,887 passenger vehicles from the road, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator.
Purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) equal to 100 percent of the campus’ electricity use, HWS has “reaffirmed our commitment to climate neutrality by 2025,” says Sustainability Manager Adam Maurer.
Community Energy is not only an REC broker but a wind and solar developer as well, which means that the Colleges’ investment in RECs aids the company’s efforts to create more renewal energy projects in New York State.
Through the partnership between Colleges and Community Energy, HWS students are invited to apply to join the Community Energy’s wind energy grassroots tabling programs in New York, Connecticut and other states. With some paid positions, this is a unique opportunity for in-depth learning about wind energy over summer break and during the school year. Other funding for these opportunities may be available through the Colleges’ Guaranteed Internship Program.
Through Community Energy’s local wind energy partnerships with NYSEG and RG&E’s “Catch the Wind” programs and National Grid’s “GreenUp” program, HWS faculty and administration have the opportunity to “be like HWS” by purchasing wind energy credits on their utility bills.
As a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, the Colleges reached their goal of being powered by 100 percent renewable energy three years ahead of schedule. Early supporters of renewable energy, HWS 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. In 2011 — on the recommendation of Maeve Donnelly ’13 and Noah Lucas ’13 and the President’s Climate Task Force — this commitment was increased, culminating in the 100 percent purchase.
“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, when the initial agreement was signed. “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.