Coe College reduces its carbon footprint, overall energy usage

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
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2013-03-13 09:26:44 - General

Coe College has made substantial reductions in its carbon emissions in recent years, thanks to a new steam production plant constructed jointly with neighboring St. Luke's Hospital and the implementation of energy conservation practices.

In 2006, Coe President James Phifer signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). Comprised of colleges and universities from across the country, the group is committed to creating campuses that are environmentally friendly. As part of that commitment, Coe conducts an annual inventory of its energy usage and carbon emissions.

Coe Professor of Chemistry Marty St. Clair and Coe student Kalais Kuhlmann tabulated data comparing the college's fiscal 2012 energy bills with the initial measurements done for fiscal 2008. Included in the analysis were Coe's electrical and natural gas costs, the cost of Coe's share of the natural gas used by the new steam plant, estimates of commuting patterns, etc. The data was then input into the Clean Air-Cool Planet's Campus Carbon Calculator.

The results reveal that over the four-year period, Coe has reduced its net emissions of carbon equivalent by 19.6 percent, from 12,044 metric tons to 9,685 metric tons. Likewise, the net emissions per student have decreased by 29.8 percent, from 10.4 metric tons to 7.3 metric tons. Finally, the net carbon emission per 1,000 square feet of building space has decreased 17.9 percent, or 2.5 metric tons, over the four-year period.

"What we've seen is that the total amount of carbon emitted has decreased rather substantially," said St. Clair. "This is due primarily to the switch from getting steam from the former coal-fired Alliant steam plant to the new steam plant powered by natural gas, which burns much cleaner."

In addition, electricity usage has deceased on the Coe campus over the four-year period, which has helped to reduce costs and the overall carbon footprint.

"We've been using less electricity as well," said St. Clair. "Coe has implemented a number of electrical efficiency measures such as new lights in Clark Racquet Center, which have resulted in significant savings."

The St. Luke's - Coe steam production plant
Following the 2008 flood and the subsequent shutdown of the Alliant Energy steam system, St. Luke's and Coe College formed a partnership to find a permanent, cost-effective, high-efficiency, reliable and environmentally superior solution for hot water and heating needs. As a result of working together, the two institutions developed a solution for essential steam production, ultimately benefiting the constituencies of both organizations. The new steam production plant became operational in August of 2010.

The $4.65 million project was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) funds provided to help the city recover from the 2008 flood.

Approximately two-thirds of the steam from the plant is used by St. Luke's, with one-third used by Coe. While primarily powered by natural gas, the new plant is able to run on diesel fuel as a backup to provide redundancy. The new joint steam facility helps to ensure that both St. Luke's and Coe have an affordable source of energy to keep long-term costs as low as possible.

The facility is a USGBC or "LEED" project, which means it's registered with the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED projects encourage and accelerate global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices.