Energy & Climate at Dickinson
Reducing Energy Consumption is A Campus Wide Effort
Dickinson is working to lessen its energy consumption and to transition away from fossil energy sources to renewable sources that are less harmful to the environment, the climate and human health. We are committed to reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), which come overwhelmingly from our energy consumption. Our target is to reduce GHG emissions 25% from our 2008 level by 2020. We have also committed to make investments and enter partnerships that reduce GHG emissions by others as part of our strategy to become a climate neutral institution.
Dickinson’s energy use per square foot of building space is roughly half the amount that is typical of educational institutions in our region. Our low energy use per square foot is owed to years of aggressive energy management and conservation efforts, a highly efficient central energy plant, and energy efficient design of new and renovated buildings.
Dickinson’s state-of-the-art low-pressure steam energy plant delivers steam and chilled water to two-thirds of the campus, a more efficient system for heating and cooling buildings than using individual boilers and condensers. The central energy plant boilers are dual-fuel, and can switch between heating oil and natural gas. Natural gas is cleaner than petroleum-derived heating oil, and emits significantly less carbon dioxide per Btu. But natural gas is not without problems, and there are concerns about the land and water impacts of hydrofracking to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation, as well as leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Dickinson is experimenting with burning viesel, filtered waste vegetable oil, in our central energy plant boilers, a renewable energy source that produces zero net emissions of carbon dioxide.
To reduce energy use while providing for comfort, centrally controlled thermostats are set at 68 degrees F during the heating season and 74 degrees F during the cooling season, instead of the more common settings of 70 and 72 degrees. Buildings are closely monitored and unoccupied spaces are kept at even lower temperatures in the heating season and higher temperatures in the cooling season. Stringent energy curtailment programs are implemented during breaks.
Dickinson’s largest energy consumption is in the form of purchased electricity. In recent years, electricity use has averaged 18 million kWh. A variety of measures have been taken to lessen electricity consumed for lighting and other uses. To offset the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our electricity use, Dickinson purchases Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).
Lighting accounts for a substantial portion of Dickinson’s electricity use. Nearly all indoor lighting fixtures at Dickinson have been converted to fluorescent lamps, either compact fluorescent (CFL) or T-5 and T-8 fluorescent tubes, which are substantially more efficient than incandescent lamps. An even more efficient lighting technology, LED, is being used in new and renovated buildings, as well as for some outdoor fixtures. Natural lighting is integrated into new buildings (Rector Science Complex and the Treehouse) and renovated buildings (Althouse, Kaufman, and the Admissions House). Motion sensors turn lights off when rooms are not occupied in many campus buildings, and other lights self-dim in response to changes in ambient lighting. During our energy challenge, students and employees were offered the opportunity to swap incandescent bulbs for CFL bulbs for use in light fixtures that they own.
As older equipment is retired, Dickinson purchases only appliances and equipment that meet Energy Star standards of efficiency. These include motors and fans for air circulation, office equipment, classroom technology, and other equipment. In 2008, all washing machines in student residence halls were replaced with high-efficiency Energy Star front-load washers that substantially reduced electricity and water use. In addition, refrigerators rented by students from the College Bookstore are Energy Star rated, as is all office equipment that is rented by the college.
Arrays of solar photovoltaic (pv) panels with a combined capacity of 110 kW are installed at Kaufman Hall, Waidner-Spahr Library, the Treehouse, and the Dickinson College Organic Farm. The systems are grid-tied so that they can sell electricity to the utility when electricity production exceeds demand. The arrays at the farm provide electricity for irrigation pumps, the farmhouse and yurts, which house farm interns. The farm also has a solar-powered electric vehicle and uses solar thermal energy, backed-up with a biodiesel fueled boiler, for an innovative root heating system in its high-tunnel greenhouses. Students participated in the design and installation of each of the solar arrays.
Students use waste vegetable oil from a variety of sources to produce biodiesel, a renewable fuel, in Dickinson's Biodiesel Shop. The student-produced biodiesel is used to power campus and farm equipment and machinery. The Biodiesel Education Program provides opportunities for students to work in a hands-on environment to reduce Dickinson's carbon footprint through experimentation and research.
A pilot project initiated by students is producing biogas at the farm from animal manure and food waste, and options for scaling up the project are being explored.
Dickinson periodically conducts campaigns to raise awareness of energy use and promote conservation. A major campaign in March 2012 allowed Dickinson residence halls to compete for the greatest reductions in consumption using our Eco-Reps Program as an agent of facilitation. Check out our promotional video for this campaign.