Choosing the Right Renewable Technology for Your Campus
By Ron Blagus, Energy Market Director, Honeywell Building Solutions
In today’s era of energy uncertainty, “green” is becoming the school color of many colleges and universities.
Fluctuating oil prices and rising costs for natural gas and electricity have created financial hardship for schools with fixed energy budgets. At the same time, there is a growing awareness across the country about environmental impact and the effects of global warming. And many institutions are looking for ways to serve as models of energy conservation as students increasingly base their enrollment in part on these criteria.
Forward-thinking schools, such as the 650 signatory members of the ACUPCC, have made public resolutions to address climate change by neutralizing greenhouse gas emissions on campus, including potentially purchasing or producing at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources. However, finding the right green technology to cut emissions and help ease economic strains can be extremely difficult, especially when it comes to renewable energy.
Take wind and solar power generation, for example. Given their visibility and well-established track record, wind turbines and photovoltaic panels are typically the first — and often only — renewable technology on people’s radar. But wind and solar are not always the optimal choice economically: most states offer no tax incentives or rebates to help decrease startup costs; regional electric rates may be too low; and a lack of wind or sunshine in a particular location may not make the investment worthwhile.
In reality, most universities aren’t tied to a particular technology. They just want some sort of renewable component to their energy management strategy. Locating the technology with the most significant economic drivers requires an analysis of location-specific variables, including:
- Fuel availability
- Energy prices
- Heating and cooling degree days
- Financial incentives and offsets
- Financing structure
Compiling the information required to make a sound financial decision is labor intensive. For most schools, this requires expertise that falls outside of their core competencies. But the task is not impossible, and need not be daunting.
The Honeywell Renewable Energy Scorecard, a first-of-its-kind selection tool that helps pinpoint the technology with the most significant environmental and economic drivers, looks at six proven renewable technologies, such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. And it provides a simple payback for each, giving organizations a financial forecast derived from calculating tax implications, rebates, subsidies and other incentives.
The Scorecard confirmed that solar was a good fit for Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. The college recently partnered with Honeywell on a power purchase agreement that is expected to save the school at least $200,000 in energy costs over the next 20 years. Under the agreement, Honeywell installed solar panels on the roof of the Pamplin Sports Center and is selling the electricity the panels produce to the college.
“This project benefits the college and our community in many ways,” said Thomas Hochstettler, president of Lewis & Clark College, an ACUPCC signatory. “It supports our vision toward sustainability, offers our students the opportunity to learn about green technology, and serves as a model for what I hope are many more projects like this all over Oregon. It's a great example in which the environment wins while the education and business sectors thrive.”
The panels generate more than 97,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually and produce enough power to meet approximately 15 percent of the electricity needs for a facility like the Sports Center. And they deliver environmental benefits as well, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 1.8 million pounds over the course of the 20-year agreement.
In addition to cost and environmental benefits, the solar installation provides an educational tool for the college. Professors and students are able to see the real-time electrical output of the solar technology through a Web portal and learn how the system operates.
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