The University is currently engaged in negotiations with the city of Waltham to receive permits to erect a $50,000 meteorological tower in Sachar woods that will remain there for one to two years as part of its exploration into renewable energy sources.
According to Brandeis Energy Manager Bill Bushey, data from this tower will be analyzed to see whether wind strength is sufficient to support a wind turbine on campus. The turbine, which would likely be taller than the 160-foot-tall meteorological tower, could cost as much as $3 million, said Bushey, though this is dependent on the size of the turbine and Waltham regulations.
The school is committed to paying for the remaining costs of the tower, said Collins, but “the University is in no way committed at this point in time” to funding a wind turbine. Such a decision would be made after analyzing data from the meteorological tower and determining the economic and financial feasibility of the project, Collins said.
The University has been approved for a $15,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which will go toward this investigative process, and will receive the funds once all permits are approved to install the met tower, Vice President for Campus Operations Mark Collins said.
This decision follows University President Jehuda Reinharz’s signature of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment last September, in which Brandeis pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
According to statistics from the Brandeis Energy Savings Program Web site, Brandeis consumed approximately 42,000,000 kWs of electricity and just under 250,000 mmBtu’s of natural gas in the form of central heating plant gas in fiscal year 2007.
The Commitment, a national initiative coordinated in part by three environmental organizations- Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, ecoAmerica and Second Nature-outlines a timeline by which colleges will gradually eliminate greenhouse gases on campus.
Reinharz had two months after signing the Commitment to “create institutional structures to guide the development and implementation of the plan,” then until the coming September to make an inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions, which should be updated annually. By the following September, the University must “develop an institutional action plan for becoming climate neutral,”
“The wind data would tell us what the output would be of a wind turbine if we were to install one, and from that, we can see if it makes sense to do so,” said Bushey, who added that he hopes to receive the appropriate permits for the tower in one to two months.
Collins and Bushey said that the University has not committed to erecting a wind turbine on campus, but is exploring the feasibility of alternative energy options.
“If [the met tower] showed that the winds were strong enough, then we would look at the overall funding costs for a wind turbine, and if everything looked good from an economic standpoint, then we would go through the permitting process with the city and see if we could get a permit to install the wind turbine on campus,” said Bushey.
According to Bushey, the met tower would be placed near the International Business School. This site is one of the highest points on campus, he said, and “the higher we can get, the better the wind conditions will be, the stronger the winds and the better output we would get from a wind turbine.”
Though the reaction of Students for Environmental Action has been generally positively about Brandeis’ initiative toward exploring the possibility of a wind turbine, some club members have raised concerns as to the turbine’s location. Sachar woods is “significant to many members of this community. … because it’s one of the few places that students can go and enjoy nature” on campus, SEA President Stephanie Sofer ’09 said.
Bushey also mentioned concerns brought up by Waltham officials, such as the visual appearance of the met tower and turbine, potential noise concerns, and fall zones.
For the most part, both students and administrators see the potential benefits of a wind turbine outweighing concerns, particularly its potential to reduce Brandeis’dependence on nonrenewable sources of energy. “A large [wind turbine] could produce as much as seven percent of the campus energy requirement, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is quite a bit,” Bushey said.
“I think a wind turbine would be terrific. Not only would it save the University money, but it would tangibly demonstrate the University’s commitment to sustainability and in essence, be very symbolic,” Sofer said.
According to Bushey, the University has consulted with Peregrine Energy Group regarding the erection of a met tower on campus and the possibility of a wind turbine.
Many towns, communities and schools across Massachusetts are currently exploring the feasibility of utilizing wind energy, according to the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Web site. The Massachusetts Maritime Academy installed a wind turbine in June 2006, and has since generated 1,621,477 kilowatts of energy, according to the school’s Web site.
by Lital Shair
12 February 2008
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