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.
As of the calendar reporting year 2017, Clark University is again on track to meet and exceed its interim goal of a 20 percent reduction over 2005 emissions levels by 2015, as it has been 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 2017 were 13,499 metric tons of CO2 equivalents. This represents an increase of 1.73% over 2016, which was in turn 2 percent larger than 2015 emissions. Details of what and why are in the 2017 Update.
Beginning in January 2014, 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 (non co-generator produced) 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. Plus, 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 cogen 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. A recent incentive program allowed Clark to upgrade the old cogen to a larger and much more efficient 2.0 MW engine, in full operation January 2013. The new cogen is already making a difference, operating with efficiencies 50% greater than previous, reducing particulate matter, and expected to reduce GHG emissions from co-gen operations due to its more efficient use of fuel. Distribution systems (underground steam and water pipes) must also be replaced to allow the full impact of the new co-gen to be felt.
In a multi-year collaborative project, Clark’s fry oil from the cafeteria is recycled into biodiesel that heats a campus building at 138 Woodland St. The vegetable oil is collected and processed into biodiesel by a local small business, assisted by Clark students. The finished product is 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 recently hosted a ‘Make BioFuel Skillshare’ workshop during Clark Earth Week. The project ran from 2013-2016, until all oil-fired boilers were replaced by natural gas.
Clark classrooms and meeting spaces equipped with projectors and other media equipment now have a much smaller carbon footprint. Room users should power down equipment before leaving a room but it does not always happen. When a room is not in use for extended periods of time — academic breaks, weekends, overnight — but 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. The system puts everything in sleep mode at 1 am across campus. Turning everything off was deemed more costly due to potential lost programming and resets.
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.
Drink vending machines are now 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.
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.