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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Sustainability at Dartmouth College Continues

Dartmouth College solar totals more than 2,000 solar panels. All images courtesy of ReVision Energy

George Harvey

Dartmouth College shows up regularly in news and articles at Green Energy Times (G.E.T.). Most of this is at the G.E.T. website, as announcements of programs, lectures, and achievements come out. Attention the college was giving to housing was the subject of a June 2016 G.E.T. print article, “High Performance Faculty Housing for Dartmouth.” A lot has been going on.

This is not new. Sustainability efforts at Dartmouth go back decades. For example, the Dartmouth Organic Farm was started by students in the early 1990s, and its first harvest was gathered in 1996. Students also started Dartmouth Bikes, a program supporting the use of bicycles at the campus. In 2006, students started work on the Sustainable Moving Sale, which offered goods of all sorts that were unwanted but could be reused, with refurbishing if necessary. The sale is hosted by the Sustainability Office and is run during the orientation period each year, giving it special value to incoming students.

Dartmouth’s organic farm on Lyme Road, north of Hanover

Despite the efforts, Dartmouth College did not really have the sustainable leadership position it would have liked, and the administration wanted to do better. In April, 2016, President Philip J. Hanlon founded the Sustainability Task Force to pursue the issue. That body issued its report, “Our Green Future: The Sustainability Roadmap for Dartmouth,” a year later, on April 15, 2017 (http://bit.ly/dartmouth-roadmap).

Though it does not get into the specifics of how its goals are to be achieved, the roadmap sets out what those goals are. In its Executive Summary, it says, “The best available science indicates that, in order to limit temperature rise to two degrees centigrade, greenhouse gas emissions must be decreased by at least 80% by 2050. Our report recommends principles, standards, and commitments in the areas of energy, waste and materials, water, food, transportation, and landscape and ecology. Energy is the largest contributor to Dartmouth’s greenhouse gas emissions and is also the area where prior analysis best positions us to take action. We believe that providing 50% of campus energy from renewable sources by 2025 and 100% by 2050 is feasible.”

According to the roadmap, in 2016 Dartmouth consumed 3.5 million gallons of number 6 fuel oil and 50,000 megawatt-hours of grid electricity each year. Use of energy from oil and the grid accounted for about 75% of Dartmouth’s greenhouse gas emissions. Those two items were clearly the ones that needed the greatest effort.

The roadmap is the creation of just one of the Sustainability Office initiatives. There are four others, two of which might be of special interest to G.E.T. readers. The Food Working Group and the Tiny House Project could both be subjects of articles of its own. There are also ten programs in addition to the organic farm, bike project, and moving project mentioned earlier. The others range from internships to a program introducing students to sustainable maple syrup practices.

Once the issues of sustainability at the college were identified, the work of reducing carbon emissions could be started in an organized manner. With a lot going on, there is one effort we might especially mention as an example, partly because it can be neatly quantified, and partly because it also relates to a solar installer we have featured elsewhere.

In 2017, ReVision Energy was awarded three separate projects. These were installed over the summer and fall. Clearly, the college was happy with the results, because in 2018, it gave ReVision Energy the job of installing more than a dozen more systems which were spread among eight campus buildings.

Together the new systems have more than 2,000 solar panels in them. They bring the Dartmouth College solar capacity to nearly 700 kilowatts, and they are capable of offsetting nearly a million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Dan Weeks, ReVision Energy’s Director of Market Development, commented on the work at Dartmouth saying, “For years, scientists from Dartmouth and beyond have been sounding the alarm about climate destruction as a result of our continued dependence on fossil fuels.” Speaking more generally, he added, “As a mission-driven benefit corporation, ReVision is proud to partner with Dartmouth, as well as students and schools across New England, in implementing real solutions to the climate crisis before it’s too late. Solar and other renewable sources have the potential to meet 100% of society’s energy needs while putting millions of young people to work.”

ReVision Energy owns the first phase of the solar projects at Dartmouth, but the solar systems installed in 2018 were financed by a Dartmouth alumnus, William Hoyt ‘68. He said, “As an alumnus, I’m particularly excited to support the Dartmouth initiative to expand the use of renewable energy and at the same time significantly reduce carbon emissions in New Hampshire.”

Together, the investor-partners owning and operating the systems are selling the electricity for campus consumption at below-market rates through a power purchase agreement. The college has an option to purchase the arrays after five years. The systems are expected to last over forty years, and during that time, they should save the college millions of dollars.

Readers who wish to learn more about the Sustainability Office can visit its web site at https://www.sustainability.dartmouth.edu. ReVision Energy’s web site is https://www.revisionenergy.com/.

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