Wind powers Union’s sustainability efforts

Publication Date

Posted on Nov 3, 2010

Workers installed three 1.2 kilowatt wind turbines on campus Wednesday, another step in the College’s sustainability efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

A small crowd of students, faculty and staff cheered when the first of the 33-foot high turbines rose near the soccer fields adjacent to College Park Hall, a former brownfield site that was once home to the American Locomotive Company.

“This is so exciting,” said Erin Delman ’12, who watched with her fellow co-chairs of the U Sustain Committee, Meghan Haley-Quigley ’11 and Shabana Hoosein ’11, as workers hoisted the turbine up on its concrete base. “This is another great initiative on campus that will make students more aware of our sustainability efforts. We do lots of things behind the scenes, but this is more visible.”

The turbines will supply 40 percent of the power used regularly at the athletic complex, including for lights and the scoreboard, reducing the College’s energy costs by several thousand dollars a year. In addition, students in Richard Wilk’s mechanical engineering classes will use the turbines to study the potential of wind power and other renewable energy sources.

The College contributed $35,000 toward the turbines, made from recycled aircraft parts and supplied by Titan Power Systems. The Melrose, N.Y., company underwrote additional costs.

“Projects like this, while not large in size, all add up in our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Fred Puliafico, assistant director of facilities. “And while the electric power generated and the savings in utility costs are important, what’s really valuable about this is that it will serve as a learning laboratory for our students, faculty and the community.”

Union joins a growing list of colleges and universities that are installing wind turbines. Nearly 70 schools across the country have turbines of varying sizes, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Sustainability is a major priority for Union. In a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, the College is currently testing a new fuel cell that will convert natural gas into electricity and high-quality heat for the 30 students living in Beuth House.

Last spring, Union was included among the country’s most environmentally responsible colleges, according to The Princeton Review’s first “Guide to Green Colleges.” The free guide, produced in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, includes schools that have “demonstrated an above average commitment to sustainability in terms of campus infrastructure, activities and initiatives.”

Union was cited for the work of its U Sustain Committee, made up of about 70 environmentally and socially concerned students, faculty and staff who steward the College’s sustainability initiatives.

Among the highlights are the College’s Presidential Green Grants, aimed at supporting environmentally sustainable projects at Union; Octopus’s Garden, Union’s organic community garden; and the school’s commitment to wind power.

In 2007, President Stephen C. Ainlay was among the first to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), pledging to formally work on reducing, and eventually eliminating, campus global warming emissions.