High energy: Union lauded for green power efforts

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solar panel

Solar panels atop the Peter Irving Wold Center help the College produce green energy.

Union is now a "100 percent Green Power user," according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency's latest rankings.

The designation is part of the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, which works with Union and hundreds of other colleges and organizations to promote renewable energy usage. The organization’s quarterly rankings are based on institutions’ use of renewable energy certificates, on-site energy generation and green power products.

While the designation doesn't mean the College is producing 100 percent of the energy it consumes in a renewable manner, the EPA has recognized Union's commitment to green energy.

Green power is electricity that is generated from environmentally preferable renewable resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, biogas, biomass and low-impact hydro. These resources generate electricity with a net-zero increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

In the past year, Union produced nearly 8,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity supplied by solar panels atop a number of campus buildings, including the Peter Irving Wold Center, 712 Roger Hull Place (Environmental Health and Safety/EcoHouse) and the shed at Octopus’s Garden, Union’s organic community garden. Energy is also provided by three 1.2 kilowatt wind turbines installed in 2010 near the soccer fields adjacent to College Park Hall.

Union is currently purchasing more than 20 million kilowatt-hour of green power annually. The College has been offsetting 15 percent of its electricity consumption by investing in renewable energy certificates (RECs) from Community Energy. But the school has committed to increase its investment in RECs to 100 percent through 2014, earning accolades from the EPA.

"This is just another step in our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint," said Meghan Haley-Quigley, Union's sustainability coordinator. "We want to keep working to reduce our energy consumption by changing behavior on campus and investing in energy-efficient improvements."

She added the College will continue to produce more renewable energy, such as the solar panels that will installed at the electric vehicle charging station at Facilities Services next month.

Union is ranked among the country’s most environmentally responsible colleges, according to The Princeton Review’s “Guide to Green Colleges.” The 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.”

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