REBlog How Green is the Cream and Crimson?

by Patrick Kitchens

Indiana University is regarded as an elite international educational institution. However in 2007 IU received a D+ by the Sustainable Endowments Institute published in their annual College Sustainability Report Card. Should the university be sent to bed without any supper…Maybe a little harsh. In reply the university created the Sustainability Task Force, appointed by Vice President Terry Clapacs, which developed a framework for campus sustainability that was released January 2008. Areas of focus include: academic initiatives, energy, environmental quality/land use, resource use/recycling, transportation, built environment, and food.

The Report Card is the only independent sustainability evaluation of campus operations and endowment investments. It assesses the 200 public and private universities with the largest endowments, ranging from $230 million to nearly $35 billion. The Report Card is based on several criteria as follows: Administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priority, and shareholder engagement. In 2008, primarily due to the formation of the faculty/student led Sustainability Task Force, Indiana University received a C from the College Sustainability Report Card. Unfortunately IU still ranks at the bottom of the Big Ten in campus sustainability tied with its in-state rival Purdue. In this article I will examine the steps IU is taking towards bettering climate change and energy impacts on campus and make several recommendations.

Within the Energy chapter of the IU Sustainability Report the Sustainability Task Force has established the energy master plan. The master plan is a guild line of practices to inventory greenhouse gas emissions on campus. Upon the completion of a thorough greenhouse gas inventory, IUB can implement projects identified in the energy master plan to strategically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including: reduced energy consumption, renewable energy sources, investigation of biomass fuel for central heating plant, and the purchase of renewable energy credits.

In 2006 Indiana University purchased 239,827,780 kWh of electricity from Duke Energy. This is enough electricity to power 30,000 households. The University has recognized the issue of improving metering so consumption can be tracked more efficiently. The first easy step to decrease this massive energy drain would be campus-wide energy efficiency education for students and faculty. Many offices and classrooms stay lit for long periods of time when not in use. This waste can be avoided with a little more attention to detail. The second step would be switching all incandescent lighting on campus with more efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFL) or Light Emitting Diodes (LED). Both CFLs and LEDs use less electricity and last much longer than incandescents. The third step should be better monitoring of computers in the labs. These are huge energy drains that can simply be powered down when not in use over night. Connecting a computer to a power strip and powering down the strip will eliminate the phantom load still draining power. The university has made strides for efficiency by holding a campus-wide energy efficiency challenge throughout all of the residence halls last year. As a communal effort Briscoe won the challenge by trimming their energy load the most. This campaign motivated students in the dorms to collectively save over 500,000 kWh of electricity, roughly enough to power 60 households annually.

Throughout the sustainability report the task force has identified the majority of university CO2 production due to building heating, electricity generation/consumption, and transportation. Heating and cooling buildings and lighting systems contribute to sixty percent of energy consumption on campus. Building envelope improvements must be made to reduce these loads. Re-insulating the walls and roofs with more insulation that is required (over-insulating) will help regulate temperature. Updating the lighting systems to CFLs or LEDs will cut the electrical load greatly and also not give off as much heat as incandescents. The campus heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems must be closely monitored and replaced with more efficient systems if necessary.

And quite possibly the most visible contributor to greenhouse gasses on campus is the Central Heating Plant located on 11th St. and Walnut Grove. The plant produces steam that is piped through an extensive underground network throughout campus to heat buildings by means of radiant heating. The central heating plant will be receiving a face lift into the 21st century with three key energy saving upgrades. It is a $34 million project that started in 2007 to upgrade emission controls. The first phase was completed Feb. 2008. Two coil boilers were replaced with a single larger gas-fired package boiler. This will have a “significant reduction on SO2 emissions.” Phase two will be to add bag house filter controls to three coal boilers and is targeted to be completed by fall 2008. A bag house filter is a filter bag that is used to remove fine particulates from the air. Phase three includes general upgrades. In all Jeff Kaden, Indiana University Engineer and Energy Chair on Task Force, expects the new emission controls to reduce overall emissions by seventy percent.

Other key additions that Kaden expects the university to consider would be solar hot water heating systems for the residence halls. A lot of water heating goes into showering and laundry. Solar hot water heating systems could be pre heat water in residence halls for these purposes. This can reduce energy consumption for water heating by 50-80%. The university is also looking into investing in RE credits to help offset the campus’ need for more carbon based power.

I recently sat in on the SUSTAIN Panel Discussions at the Whittenberger Auditorium. There were many key figure heads from many different arenas there to receive questions from an audience relevant to Indiana University’s sustainability. Most conversational topics included sustainability, transportation and energy efficiency education for incoming students. These are things that need to be discussed however it bothered me that there was no real conversation about renewable energies. Solar power generation is a reality atop many of the university flat top buildings. This paired with more energy efficiency practices could reduce a portion of the universities dependence on carbon based fuels. Students will be able to research this data and present it to their peers for further discussion. Having photovoltaic arrays within sight of the students will help raise awareness as well. In order for Indiana University to take a step forward and become a leader in sustainability renewable energies must become an everyday reality.

Patrick Kitchens is the publisher of REBloom, a Bloomington monthly renewable energy newsletter advocating the benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Pick one up at all Bloomingfoods locations, Soma Coffeehouse, Upland Brewery, and Roots restaurant, or email for a monthly e-newsletter.