Community College Installs Wind Turbines On Campus

Mount Wachusett Community College (MWCC) in Gardner, Massachusetts is taking the lead in the campus sustainability movement as it tests its newly installed on-site wind turbines, according to a report from Earth Techling. The turbines will be a source of renewable energy for the campus and will provide 97 percent of its power. They will even put some power back into the grid as well as earn some revenue for the college.

The turbines were recently tested by National Grid utility company and appear to be operating correctly. Both turbines ran smoothly on the windy day and one of them apparently generated 1 megawatt of power for the campus. But they will not be fully operational until they go through a few more prep runs.

Officials at the college are thrilled to reach the fruition of the project, which is expected to bring in $1 million annually, provide 97 percent of the school’s electric power, and return 30 percent of the power it uses back into the grid. The project was funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy as well as from state bonds.

Wachusett is well known for its green and renewable energy efforts and has made them campus-wide goals. In 2002, the main campus in Gardner installed a biomass heating system, which they claim has cut their carbon footprint by 24 percent. They also installed solar power and solar thermal heating equipment.

The school has a general consciousness of sustainability, focusing their efforts on integrating environmental awareness with education. Faculty members and students were themselves involved in the installation of the turbines. The president of the college, Daniel Asquino, said in a statement that with the turbines in operation they will be “the most energy-independent college or university in New England.”

Although Wachusett is forging ahead of the pack at the moment, plenty more campuses across the nation are installing their own renewable energy solutions.

The University of New England (UNE) just installed solar panels last week as part of its own project. Their project was funded through a $50,000 grant for a solar hot water system at the Campus Center, according to The Portland Press Herald.

A digital monitor will help UNE calculate their savings in energy and dollars. It is expected that the system could save them up to 50 percent of the hot water energy they normally use.

Economic and ecological benefits undoubtedly play roles in motivating campuses across the nation to rethink their own energy sources. Devising and implementing renewable energy and other environmental projects has developed into rich educational opportunities for students as well as profitable economic occasions.

One organization stands out as a resource nexus for the movement, called the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE.) The organization is especially devoted to the movement across campuses. Its website, http://www.aashe.org, provides the tools and resources for building sustainability efforts on campuses. Students and faculty who are interested in these goals can find information about campus case studies, energy plans, and online discussions there.

The websites states that “implementing conservation measures and switching to renewable sources of energy can help institutions save money and protect them from utility rate volatility. Renewable energy may be generated locally and allow campuses to support local economic development. Institutions can also help shape markets by creating demand for cleaner, renewable sources of energy.”

Switching to renewable energy is a reliable way for schools to generate revenue, especially in tough economic times. As tuition rises and cuts are made across the nation’s campuses, many school administrations might benefit to consider the fiscal and educational advantages of green energy on campus.

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