Higher education goes green

As August rolls around and students get ready to go back to school, the “going green” movement is alive and well, as part of the college community and curriculum, both nationally and here locally.

Coastal Point • File Photo

Each year, The Princeton Review publishes its list of the top colleges in the nation and as part of their list, the top green colleges are recognized, as well. This year, out of 697 institutions, 15 post-secondary institutions, including seven public colleges, were named to the Green Rating Honor Roll.

The institutions, which range from Arizona State University to Dickinson College to the University of California at Berkley to Yale, have zero-waste programs in place, plans to neutralize their carbon emissions, carbon-neutral campuses, and the nation’s first School of Sustainability at Arizona State’s Tempe campus.

Although impressive, the list is not inclusive. Delaware’s own University of Delaware and Delaware Technical and Community College are right on the heels as pioneers in the sustainability realm.

Most notably, UD recently signed an agreement with Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica, a Spanish company that has installed more than 16,000 megawatts of its main product lines — or the equivalent of 3.45 million tons of petroleum — in 20 countries on four continents. This agreement could facilitate the installation of a utility-scale wind turbine at UD’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes next year.

“The Memorandum of Understanding is an agreement to pursue an agreement,” explained College of Earth, Ocean and Environment Dean Dr. Nancy Targett. “We are moving ahead with permitting, and citing issues, although we have not settled on a site or vendor yet.”

Dr. Targett said she always thought it would be an interesting thing to try simply from a ‘reducing our carbon footprint perspective.’

“We know that Delaware is a low wind state and not very good for utility-scale wind turbines, but we are so close to the coast there, we thought I might be worth taking a look at.”

After a preliminary assessment and a 12-month feasibility study, the college now has 12 months of data with very positive results for the site as a wind resource for a utility-scale wind turbine. The turbine they are looking at will most likely be a 1.5 to 2 megawatt turbine that will be able to generate enough electricity to cover their use at the Lewes campus.

On July 27 of this year, Gov. Jack Markell, who attended the signing event, said “This agreement is a significant step forward in Delaware’s efforts to seize the economic development opportunities presented by our nation’s commitment to energy independence and the concern over climate change.”

According to the college, in addition to providing carbon-free electricity generation, the project will “enhance University research in areas such as turbine corrosion, avian impacts, and policy issues related to renewable energy.” They added that a coastal turbine, such as this, also enables many types of research needed to develop ocean turbines.

In addition to this, to many alumni, even seeing the university’s web site with a ‘sustainable campus’ link will prove to be news about the direction they are headed. This Earth Day 2009, the college recently announced its plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 20 percent by the year 2020. Most of the emissions are due to campus buildings and transportation. Their plans include a 5 percent reduction by 2012 and another 10 percent by 2015.

Commenting on the plan University President Patrick Harker had this to say: “Campus-wide engagement in the plan — generating a sense of community around it — is absolutely essential, because we cannot realize a carbon-neutral future without the commitment and buy-in of everyone at the University.

“This University is particularly fortunate to have a number of people on campus who are passionately dedicated to this cause, who are environmentally responsible themselves and who demand the same from the University” he continued.

Also, this year’s Senior Class gift, given by the class of 2009 which raised a record $100,000 will be a 10kw solar system, which will be able to generate to generate 13,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) of clean energy a year. Last years class gift was a carbon footprint survey of the university.

In addition ot the work the University of Delaware is doing, Delaware Technical and Community College has recently initiated a Green Team and has two major areas of interest: (1) in greening the camps, and (2) in greening the curriculum.

Lisa Hastings-Shephard, who heads up the newly established Green Team, said the college has pulled together an advisory committee for an energy curriculum using experts from the community including several private companies principals, and the Delaware Energy Office.

Their advisory committee has approved a vision that includes an Applied Energy Education Center. The offerings, which are still in development, could include Associate Degrees to train energy managers and “green power” technicians; certifications in areas such as renewable energy technologies (solar, wind, geothermal), energy management, energy assessment and cost analysis, green building design and construction, hybrid and electric transportation, ammonia refrigeration, and industrial maintenance; and workshops on a variety of energy topics for technicians, facility managers, residential energy users and specialized industries, such as poultry and cold storage.

They already currently offer an intensive five-day certification course in Green Building Design Training for contractors, entrepenuers, homeowners and anyone else interested in learning more about the renewable energy market or how to expand their knowledge of wind, solar and other green energy options.

“It’s not a fad,” Hasting-Shephard said of going green. “We are definitely moving in the right direction.”

The college also has plans to do a greenhouse gas inventory to see how they can reduce their carbon footprint and once they gauge where they are, will seek to implement a plan of action for improvement.

So, while not recognized on the top 15, two of Delaware’s local institutions are holding their own in the world of green. And both of these exemplary institutions are right at the fingertips of Delawareans within driving distance, and attending either would give a shot to the local economy.

What could be greener than that?