Representatives from Appalachian colleges and universities meet to discuss the future of green energy
Posted by collegegreenou on October 29, 2009
By Elyse McConnell
For CG News
Representatives from several Appalachian universities discussed the prospects, implications and funding for developing sustainable energy projects in a roundtable discussion Wednesday at Ohio University’s Baker University Center.
The discussion, titled “Appalachian College Presidents’ Discussion: Green Facilities and New Curriculum Opportunities,” hosted eleven panelists as a part of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s series of panels on energy. Methods of greening campuses were among the topics debated, along with plans on how to finance the projects.
Some initiatives included motion sensors for lighting, investing in renovations to become LEED silver certified, improving campus landscapes by planting trees and exploring the remediation of brownfields, which are underused or abandoned plots of industrial land that may or may not be contaminated with hazardous substances. But it was some of the programs that Shawnee State University had implemented that seemed to catch audience and panelists’ attention.
Jeff Bauer, associate provost of Shawnee State University, said many of their older buildings had been retrofitted and the new addition to their student center involved geothermal energy. The water beneath the campus is circulated through the chillers in the student center.
“We estimate that the cost-savings will be between $15 and $20,000 a year,” he said.
Two of the renovated buildings have carbon dioxide sensors connected to a computer system.
“When CO2 levels drop to a certain level that is considered healthy, we cut back on the air intake into these buildings,” he explained. The initial cost is small compared to how much money is saved over time, Bauer said.
Financing these projects was another central theme of the discussion.
Sonia Marcus, sustainability coordinator at OU, suggested that one of the commonalities among Appalachian universities is that they are in areas where they can’t always rely on third-party contractors or public entities to provide certain sustainability services, even those considered to be standard.
To make a project with slower payoff more appealing to board of trustees members, Marcus suggested bundling several initiatives together. For example, projects with a 30-year payoff could be grouped with projects whose payoff was only 2 to 5 years into the future.
The Appalachian region’s history in energy might hinder the process of incorporating more green technologies.
“Traditionally, we have had strengths in the areas of resource extraction, and specifically fossil fuel extraction. We have to recognize that that’s part of who we are. That’s part of our legacy; that’s part of our pride,” Marcus said, referring to Ohio University’s advanced coal-research center.
Citing the fact that the Ohio River Valley is one of the most industrialized places “on the planet,” Marcus said, “This is where power is generated. There is no better place to be learning about, talking about and engaging with sustainability issues than here.”