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It's not easy being green! - Kermit T. Frog   Home Colleges & Universities 12 Steps toward Sustainability Energy Purchasing

Energy Purchasing
Universities control large amounts of spending power and can thus influence the market a great deal. Universities and Colleges that commit to purchasing Green Energy and on-site renewable energy are using their purchasing power to further industries which promote sustainable development.
    Much of Connecticut's wind-generated power comes from wind farms in New York.
    Image courtesy epa.gov
  Organizational Assistance   Best Practices  
  • Make Energy Efficiency Improvements First
    The most economically sound way to use green power is to first ensure that a campus has achieved a high level of energy efficiency. Green power is often more expensive than conventional power which causes inefficient technologies to waste more energy and, thus, be more costly. Why run an incandescent light off a photovoltaic cell when it is possible to run a compact fluorescent light that uses one third the energy or less? Reducing energy needs through high efficiency will lead to reductions of green house gas produced by a campus and can help to keep tuition costs low by reducing operating costs. Significant reductions of energy consumption can be achieved by the use of both high and low tech strategies. High-tech solutions involve ensuring that all equipment purchased is ENERGY STAR certified. Replace any incandescent lighting with florescent lighting. Low-tech strategies can be just as effective. Ensure that a building’s envelope is properly insulated in order to reduce the energy required for cooling and heating. Make sure that all windows and doors are properly weatherized. Even small cracks in weather stripping can lead to substantially higher energy consumption. The easiest low-tech strategy is to encourage people to turn off lights. There is a myriad of both high and low tech ways to reduce campus energy use. Further details can be found on the Energy Conservation section of this website.
  • Improve Campus Load Profile
    Throughout a given day a college campus experiences peaks and lulls in its energy demand. For example, a campus may use less than two megawatts throughout the day, but during peak times energy use might spike to three or four megawatts. Utilities will charge campuses to maintain the necessary capacity through demand charges. A campus can reduce this peak through energy management techniques and subsequently lower energy costs. Changing the schedule of building use and maintenance is one way to effectively deal with this problem. Where possible, reschedule tasks to be done during periods of low energy demand. This raises valleys but lowers peaks in usage, thus lowering demand charges.
    Energy Use Graph
  • Use Low-Emission Fuels
    A great way to reduce campus green house gas production is to use low-emission fuels in boilers, heating plants, and vehicles. Not all fossil fuels are created equal; consider replacing coal fire or oil burning domestic space heating and hot water systems with natural gas. Renewable fuels are also viable options for domestic heating. One such resource is biofuel derived from crops grown on farms and not pulled from deposits in the earth. Any carbon dioxide produced in the burning of these fuels will be sequestered with each growing season. Consider integrating renewable sources of heat such as geothermal or solar heating to augment any conventional space or water heating system. In addition, purchase vehicles for the campus fleet that use renewable fuels. Fuel cells are also an option for many vehicles such as shuttles and buses. More information can be found within the Transportation section of this website.
  • Green Purchasing
    Purchasing green power from the local utility can be an excellent way to reduce emissions. Many states now have a green power option. Some colleges purchase 100% of their power from renewable sources, but even purchasing a fraction of green power as part of a campus's overall energy profile can lead to significant reductions of green house gas emissions. Where available and economically feasible, attempt to purchase as much power from Class I sources as possible (Solar, wind, methane capture, tidal power, ocean thermal power, some hydroelectric sources, and some biomass). Class I Renewables produce little or no green house gas emissions.
  • Use Renewable Resources On Campus
    One of the strongest actions a university can take to move towards sustainability is to install a renewable generation capacity on campus. The choice of which systems can be integrated effectively into a campus's energy strategy depends on the local climate, terrain, and federal and state incentives. Renewable resources produce little or no greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately pay for themselves in the long run, which makes them a perfect choice for an institutional setting.
    Areas with low cloud cover and low obstruction should be considered for the installation of photovoltaics (PV). Though the payback period for investing in PV is long compared to other renewable strategies, it requires no fuel source and generates power as long as the sun is shining. The rising costs of fossil fuels, in combination with continuing technological advancement, is making PV an increasingly more cost-effective power source than in years past. The presence of PV on campus can also serve as an educational resource for students who may see PV change from an alternative to a mainstream power source in their lifetimes. PV on campus thus serves as part of making a campus a Learning Laboratory. Though there is a great potential for the future of PV, this technology is beneficial even today. Grid-tied photovoltaics help reduce the likelihood of brown outs by offsetting the electrical demand caused by high cooling loads. Times of greatest sunlight during the year are usually coincident with greater energy demand during the summer months. This is because air conditioning usage during the summer dramatically increases energy consumption. The result is a high summer peak which sets the electric rate for the coming year as utility rates are based on an average price throughout the year. Thus, PV can create added system reliability by producing electricity when it is needed most. Many states offer incentives to offset much of the added cost of PV.
    Of the many options available, wind power has perhaps the greatest potential to produce clean, cheap energy. Campuses in climates with reliable wind resources should consider this technology. Use meterological data to find on-campus wind resources. While there may seem to be little wind at ground level, wind resources might be plentiful one or two hundred feet up. The scale of wind power generators ranges from a few hundred watts to a few megawatts. Most universities with high wind resources would likely want to consider a midrange generation plant, but if there is a steady and consistent wind resource over university grounds, a large turbine may be an economical option.
  • Combined Heat And Power
    A campus can also use conventional means of energy production in more efficient ways. Electrical generation plants produce a great deal of waste heat that cannot be used to make electricity. A combined heat and power plant can utilize this waste heat for domestic hot water and space heating. Campuses considering developing on-site generation will be much more energy efficient if they utilize combined heat and power. This system can be used both for centralized electricity and heating generation. Combined heat and power utilizes the same fuel for two jobs and is thus more efficient than separate electric and heating generation. The result of using this economic technology is substantial long-term savings.
  • Consider Carbon Sequestering
    In order to offset greenhouse gases (GHG's) produced by the campus through electricity consumption, consider carbon sequestration. Plant trees and maintain green spaces. One of most efficient ways to sequester carbon is to use building materials that are rapidly renewable. This can be integrated into building structure. Contributions to sequestering carbon can also be made by using furniture made of wood or wheat board. Wheat board is made from straw and thus production can be renewed at a fast rate, and with each growing season more carbon is sequestered. Additionally there are many programs which allow individuals or organizations to purchase portions of rain forest to protect them from impeachment. Reforest the Tropics Inc. has begun a program of rainforest restoration through the use of the fast growing Klinki tree. Reforest the Tropics estimates that with every acre of restored forest 16 tons of carbon dioxide are sequestered annually.
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