Larson named Energy Innovator of the Year

The Association of Energy Engineers award recognizes her many contributions to improving sustainability at Carleton.

Grace Rubin '20 Sep. 24, 2019

Martha Larson, Carleton’s manager of campus energy and sustainability, has been named an Energy Innovator of the Year by the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE). The AEE is a non-profit organization that focuses on fostering sustainable development in the energy industry. The award is given to an individual in each of the international association’s 15 regions for “outstanding achievement and innovation in promoting the adoption of renewable, green, or other innovative technologies.”

Martha LarsonLarson’s award recognizes her many contributions to improving sustainability at Carleton. In 2011, she served as the project manager for Carleton’s Climate Action Plan, developed in accordance with the college’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The CAP includes the installation of Carleton’s second commercial-sized wind turbine, as well as a Utility Master Plan for modernizing Carleton’s energy profile. Phase 1 of the plan was initiated last May when Carleton began its transition from a steam distribution system to a 120-degree Fahrenheit hot water system. By replacing the steam system with a geothermal heat pump system, energy usage will be reduced by 40% and carbon emissions will be reduced by 15%. The project is expected to be completed by 2021.

“I feel honored to have had the opportunity to work on such a diverse portfolio of projects, from the Climate Action Plan, to the second wind turbine, to the geothermal system,” Larson said. “It’s an exciting time to be engaged in energy and sustainability, and I am fortunate to serve at an institution that is so visionary.”

Larson’s work has involved close collaboration with faculty, staff and students. As chair of the college’s Environmental Advisory Committee, she oversees student-proposed sustainability initiatives and reviews student budget requests to host workshops, bring in speakers and attend conferences. The Winter 2012 Residential Energy Audits Pilot Program is just one example of a student-proposed project Larson oversaw.

In 2015, Larson presented on incorporating community sustainability initiatives into college curricula at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education with Carleton physics professor Melissa Eblen-Zayas and several Carleton students. In February 2018, she introduced Carleton’s Utility Master Plan at the Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit alongside Fred Rogers, Carleton’s vice president and treasurer, and Steven Spehn, director of facilities and capital planning. Larson’s commitment to integrating civic responsibility into higher education curricula was recognized in 2017 when she was awarded the Civic Engagement Steward Award by the Minnesota Campus Compact.

 Since Larson joined Carleton in 2010, the college has been recognized by multiple organizations for its leadership and excellence in sustainable development. In 2012 and 2013, Carleton was a finalist in the Second Nature Climate Leadership Awards, an annual competition among college and university signatories of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Carleton was also one of just two colleges nationwide to receive the 2019 Excellence in Sustainability Award from the National Association of College and University Business Officers. The college received the award for the work Larson and others contributed to the Utility Master Plan.

Larson was formally honored on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the AEE Regional Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C.