CORVALLIS, Ore. – Large purchases of renewable energy – funded by a fee that Oregon State University students imposed upon themselves – helped OSU reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent during the 2007-08 fiscal year, according to a new report.
Conducted by the university’s Sustainability Office, the second annual inventory measured the university’s greenhouse gas emissions across the state, according to Brandon Trelstad, who coordinates OSU’s sustainability efforts.
The inventory includes not just the university’s main campus, but its Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, the OSU-Cascades Campus in Bend, OSU Extension Service offices in most Oregon counties, and various facilities operated by Forest Research Laboratory and Agricultural Experiment Station.
Overall, the university had a 2 percent increase in gross emissions, which Trelstad attributes primarily to increased consumption of natural gas. “Some of that could have been weather-related,” he said. “We’ll have to check the weather data.”
The university also experienced small increases in electricity consumption and air miles flown. All of those increases, however, were more than offset by purchases of renewable energy funded primarily by student fees. In 2007, OSU students overwhelmingly voted to assess themselves a fee of up to $8.50 per student each term to pay for “green” energy. The proposal passed by a margin of 71 percent to 29 percent, making OSU one of the first universities in the country to adopt such a measure.
“It has made a significant difference,” Trelstad said. “Those funds have boosted our ability to purchase renewable energy certificates from off-site sources, including wind energy, biogas and biomass.”
Earlier this year, OSU students gained national attention for their energy generation. Oregon State became one of the first universities in the country to tap the kinetic energy generated by students working out on cardio machines and turning it into a form of renewable energy. OSU retrofitted 22 elliptical exercise machines in its student fee-funded Dixon Recreation Center and is collecting the power produced by students and feeding it back into the power grid.
The effort will produce an estimated 3,500 kilowatt hours of electricity in a year, said Trelstad, enough to power a “small, very efficient house.”
“The amount of power generated isn’t overwhelming,” he said, “but it really helps students think about issues relating to energy production and consumption and encourages their activity in other areas. OSU students are quite energy-conscious – and becoming more so every day.”
The university’s ability to use renewable power should get a boost later this year when the new $55 million energy center becomes fully operational, replacing a decades-old steam heating plant. The new center will allow OSU to produce about half of its electricity through co-generation.
OSU’s comprehensive inventory, which is available online at http://oregonstate.edu/sustainability/energy/climate.html, tracks the university’s carbon footprint by measuring not just energy consumption, but commuting miles logged by faculty, staff and students; air miles traveled during the year; solid waste taken to local landfills; refrigerants used in dining halls, restaurants and research; and even fertilizer and animal waste from the university’s agricultural programs.
“Every year we get a little bit better in our calculations and analysis,” said Greg Smith, who helped Trelstad conduct the inventory. “There is a lot of interest on campus – from faculty, staff and administration, as well as students – in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions as much as we can.”