Energy at Carleton
In response to recent energy price escalations, Carleton College is exploring alternatives to be energy self-suffice and environmentally responsible. However, before we can know where to go, we must know where we were. The following will explain the history of our energy use and past steps to conserve energy.
Carleton’s energy needs have increased about 29% in the last 16 years (1987-2004). Many factors have contributed to this increase. One factor is the increase in total square footage of buildings. Since 1990, Carleton has added 25% more square footage to its campus. In October 2005, with the purchase of the old Northfield Middle School we will be adding another 10%. According to the Worldwatch Institute, about 40% of the world’s total energy usage is dedicated to the construction and operation of buildings. Heating and operating buildings on average consumes over 30% of all energy used in the U.S. Carleton is no exception. In fact, because of the residential nature of the campus, buildings might account for a greater percentage of total campus energy consumption. As an indicator of how much energy campus buildings use, the campus electrical and heating energy used contributes for 91% of our greenhouse gases for the campus.
The increase in heating energy rose 24% in the last 16 years, very similar to the increase in square footage. This indicates that new buildings built in the last 15 years are at least as energy efficient in terms of heating energy as the existing buildings, if not a little more. However, electrical energy usage went up 41%. This increase can be contributed to the increased use of air conditioning in the buildings, campus technology, and student appliances in residential rooms.
Although the use of electrical energy has risen relatively fast in the last 16 years, electricity only accounts for one-fourth of the total heat and power combined. Also, electrical prices have been stable in the last year due to regulations. Heating use on the other hand has been rising at a more proportionate rate, but the price of natural gas, which produces the heat, has been climbing at a faster rate. Therefore, the cost of our major energy resource has increased at a faster rate than electrical energy. In 1996, the cost of gas was half of the electrical cost, but in 2004 it was almost twice the electrical. See the chart on the right.
Since 1995, the College has implemented a variety of energy conservation measures. Most of the measures implemented have been building controls, more efficient electrical motors, more efficient lighting and ballasts, and more preventative maintenance. It is difficult to know exactly the extent of these changes in total energy consumption, but it has some effect. Buildings built with particular components, such as minimal building insulation, single pain windows, and steam heat with little controls, are difficult to apply quick and inexpensive measures to conserve energy. It is similar to trying to change the gas mileage of your car. You can tune up your car’s engine, inflate the tires, and keep the car clean, but the gas mileage will only be affected a couple of percentage points. This is also true for buildings. Until major renovation work is completed on older buildings, substantial energy savings can not be obtained.
What is the plan then if there isn’t much we can do? There is a lot we can do both in the short term and in the long term. With raising energy prices, small changes in energy use can have a large effect. In the short term, the best way to make a difference is to change behaviors in relation to energy use. The following suggestions outlined are a good start for everyone:
- Close all storm windows
- Close and lock all interior windows
- Do not prop open doors to offices, classrooms, labs, etc.
- Do not block airflow around radiation or ventilation units
- Wear warm clothes and layer your attire during the cold season
- Keep the heat set at 68 degrees
- Refrain from using electric space heaters to raise the temperature
- Turn off lights when you are last to leave a room
- Do not leave coffee makers on or unattended over night
- Do not position your desk close to exterior walls, especially next to windows
- Turn off computers and printers at the end of the day
- Remind others to do their share
In the long term, the College will be looking at ways to control the use of energy on campus. One good example would be to only ventilate and light spaces that are currently in use. When they are not in use, the ventilation would be turned down or off and lights would be turned off. When buildings are renovated, energy conservation measures should be forward-looking at plans to be at maximum energy efficiency.
Also, the College is looking at alternate energy sources so that the College would have a choice of energy, depending on price and environmental effects. Although these alternatives are long-term in nature, some can be implemented rather quickly. Emergency electrical generators would save us electrical costs, provide the campus with secure electrical energy, provide for an alternate energy source, and perhaps use biodiesel fuels that would be more benign to the environment.
There is a lot for us to do in the near and far term, but we have to work together to make it happen. Every calorie of energy not used is a savings for the College and less CO2 gas not created. Energy conservation and global warming are connected.
- Energy at Carleton
- Water Report