Innovative solutions to energy and climate challenges
Our Climate Action Plan includes achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Plus, our commitment to solar energy is measurable: up to 10% of our annual purchased electrical usage is powered by the sun, while ASEC’s rooftop array supplies 50% of building demand. Our innovative approach to laundry means Clark conserves energy ― and students save time.
Clark University released its Climate Action Plan in 2009, detailing mitigation strategies for the University to reduce its greenhouse gas toward two goals: an interim goal of reduced emissions 20% below 2005 levels by 2015 and climate neutrality (net zero greenhouse gas emissions) by the year 2030. Clark signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in June 2007.
On June 5, 2017 President David Angel signed “We Are Still In“, an open letter to the world community in support of the Paris Accord and pledging that Clark University will keep its Climate Action Plan promise to reduce emissions and fight climate change.
The We Are Still In initiative has grown to include thousands of members and remains a force for positive change in spite of the federal administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord. The full story is here.
As of the calendar reporting year 2020, Clark University again maintains the interim goal of a 20 percent reduction over 2005 emissions levels by 2015, as it has since 2009. The ultimate goal of net zero emissions by 2030 is very ambitious, but every year’s efforts bring us closer!
Greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 were 10,752 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. This represents a 22% decrease over 2019, however it is almost entirely due to restricted activity on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic response. Details are in the Updates below.
Complete 2019 Update
Complete 2018 Update
Complete 2017 Update
Complete 2016 Update
Complete 2015 Update
Complete 2014 Update
Complete 2013 Update
Complete 2012 Update
Complete 2011 Update
Complete 2010 Update
Clark is actively supporting and benefiting from a local solar energy farm operated by Solar Flair Energy. Through a state and federally supported program to encourage the development of renewable energy production facilities, called Alternative Net Metering, Clark was able to secure a 20-year financial arrangement with this local, independent innovator. Alternative Net Metering operates through a system of utility credits: Clark’s electrical bills from National Grid receive a discount adjusted for solar energy farm production. Indirectly, Clark is powered by the sun — up to 10% of our annual purchased electrical usage! Real-time analytics from the farms are here and here.
New washers and dryers were installed in the halls in 2016; not only are they energy-efficient, but dryers can be programmed in increments and at different temperatures, an improvement on the old one-size-fits all. A real-time app lets you know when the laundry machines are available, and even know when your clothes are done so you can be proactive in getting your laundry done. Plus, the new Energy Star washing machines are engineered to use 21% less water.
Ground-breaking in its time, Clark’s old cogeneration engine cranked faithfully away underneath Jonas Clark Hall from 1982-2012, producing electricity for central campus and capturing the waste heat from electrical generation in a complex water loop that provides thermal energy — heat — to many campus buildings. In 2010, the co-gen switched from oil to natural gas, greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the engine’s efficiency a little, but still not to modern standards. An incentive program allowed Clark to upgrade the old co-gen to a larger and much more efficient 2.0 MW engine which went into full operation January 2013. The new co-gen is making a difference; operating with efficiencies 50% greater than before and reducing particulate matter; GHG emissions are also reduced due to more efficient fuel use. As of 2019, all of the connected distribution systems (underground steam and water pipes) have been replaced to further improve co-gen fuel and operational efficiency.
In a multi-year collaborative project, Clark’s fry oil from the cafeteria was recycled into biodiesel to heat a campus building at 138 Woodland St. The vegetable oil was collected and processed into biodiesel by a local small business, assisted by Clark students and interns. The finished product was then delivered in specific volumes to add to the heating oil tank in the building, making the heating fuel source B-20, or 20% biodiesel. This has reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the building by 10% and even cleaned the boiler! Intern Suyanka Neupaney MS ’14 collaborated with Clark’s Dining Service; Physical Plant; Empower Energy and building occupants on the project, and ran a ‘Make BioFuel Skillshare’ workshop during Clark Earth Week. The project ran from 2013-2016, until the last oil-fired boiler on campus was replaced by natural gas. Your french fry oil from the cafeteria is still collected and recycled by a company right here in New England, though!
Clark classrooms and meeting spaces equipped with projectors and other media equipment are programmed to automatically reduce carbon footprint. Room users should power down equipment before leaving a room but it does not always happen! During academic breaks, weekends, even overnight – if all that equipment remains on, energy waste can add up. Academic Technology Services has deployed an automated power-down system that will achieve the media services reliability needed, yet realize significant energy savings (at least $8,000 per year) if equipment is left on by mistake and over extended periods on disuse. The system puts everything in sleep mode at 1 am across campus, greatly reducing the energy load.
Energy-efficient air hand dryers were installed in bathrooms in the University Center, Jonas Clark, and Academic Commons, reducing waste from paper towels. The super-efficient model uses 80% less energy than conventional blown-air hand dryers, and dries hands completely and sanitarily in less than 15 seconds. Sustainable Clark intern Marla Carrera-Raleigh monitored paper towel volume and labor costs to replace up to 6 rolls per day (and cart away the waste); indicating a significant savings could be realized from replacing paper towels. The SSF helped to fund the dryers in the AC through a successful student project application. Air-powered hand dryers have been added in a number of locations across campus where the sound will not be a disturbance, and more are coming!
Drink vending machines are Energy Star models with up to 55% lower energy use than standard units. Some have timers to shut down energy-hogging refrigeration coils at night, and some have Vending Miser sensors to reduce lighting when not in use. Machines may appear dark but they are still on — just sleeping! And drinks will stay cold due to super insulation in the new Energy Star models.
Lighting fixtures that date from the 1970’s were recently replaced in the Atwood Hall auditorium, allowing the installation of state-of-the-art LED bulbs specifically designed for use in theatres and entertainment venues. The dimmable LED’s max out at 85 kWh, as compared with the old lights’ system of 500 – 4000 kWh. A big energy change that has resulted in better lighting overall!
Clark students serve as ‘ambassadors’ to tour visitors around the latest energy-saving home appliances and provide information about smart grid metering and connectivity. Supported by a Public Utilities grant and vendor donations, National Grid, the regional electric utility provider, operates an educational center on Clark property at the corner of Main and Hawthorne Streets. The Hub is also open for community-based meetings and events and offers open study space to students when available. For more information or to visit National Grid’s Hub.