December 1, 2017

ERAPPA Speakers Address Rising Campus Energy Costs

Educational facilities across North America are looking to reduce both energy spend and emissions, with carbon targets of 50% reduction by 2030 or even sooner. At the same time, both public and private institutions must balance the desire to be environmental leaders with the realities of an ageing campus infrastructure that limits what they can reasonably be invested in efforts to go “green.”

A packed room in Washington DC at the Eastern Regional Association of Physical Plan Administrators (ERAPPA) heard three different approaches to confronting rising energy costs from sustainability managers at Adelphi University, Vassar College, and Ithaca College. The session, moderated by Ecosystem’s Katherine Kluefer, looked at how universities can work to achieve their immediate goals will continuing to invest in the future.

Each school faces different challenges, from storm exposure on Long Island to maintaining the iconic buildings of a Seven Sisters campus. Both Ithaca and Adelphi have invested in self-generation. At Vassar, the university is developing an 18-month energy master plan.

Alistair Hall is a Vassar College graduate who has been the college’s Sustainability Coordinator since 2012. Vassar began to plan for the future with a Climate Action Plan completed in 2016 that was supplemented by a Campus Facility Plan later the same year. Currently, the campus is compiling energy data in a NYSERDA-supported Energy Master Plan that focuses on the central heating plant, a behemoth which accounts for 40% of the campus’ carbon footprint. Tackling this will involve addressing a significant deferred maintenance backlog and will provide an opportunity for the sustainability and facilities groups to create a single vision for Vassar’s future.

Greg Lischke of Ithaca College talked about efforts to revitalize IC’s climate action plan based on emissions and utilities data that has been recorded since 2001. Although emissions have come down in that period, additional measures are needed to reach a 50% reduction goal by 2025. An ambitious 2MW solar installation, covering 12-13 acres, came online in 2016, a major step to offset dependence on carbon-based fuels. Since joining Ithaca College late last year, Greg has worked to reduce energy costs while providing a plan for the next steps on sustainability. Potential targets include a long-term renewables collaboration with both SUNY and private colleges in the state; a formalized retro-commissioning plan for the campus; and a regional heating/cooling plants using geothermal heat pumps.

Bob Shipley is the Assistant VP of Facilities at Adelphi University, but he began his Adelphi career two decades earlier as an electrician. During his tenure in the Facilities Department, Bob took on responsibility for the university’s sustainability goals, added solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations. More recently, he oversaw the installation of three geothermal loops; in 2016, Bob realized his goal of reinforcing campus resiliency with the addition of a 2MW cogeneration plant.