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Reed College pursuing energy conservation

by: MERRY MACKINNON - In a major move toward energy renewal and conservation, Reed College is planning to have solar panels placed on some of its buildings rooftops. Solar panels have already been installed by Lite Solar on a college warehouse roof along S.E. 28th Avenue, just south of Steele Street.Reed College is in the midst of a three-year effort to conserve energy and minimize carbon dioxide emissions, with measures that will ultimately lower electrical energy use by 12 percent, gas use by 13 percent, and water and sewer costs by 28 percent.

“We wanted to take a longer view,” said Reed College Director of Facilities Operations Townsend Angell.

That isn’t to say the college had seen a dramatic increase in energy costs over the years. On the contrary, according to Angell, the college’s per-square-foot energy cost has been fairly consistent, paralleling the size of its student body. New dorms have been added, but only to accommodate the trend of more students choosing to live on campus, probably because affordable rentals nearby are harder to find these days, he said.

The college currently has an enrollment of 1,350 students – only about 200 more than a quarter century ago.

“We’ve been doing a fair job of holding the fort,” Angell commented. “And we don’t intend to grow that much.”

Still, Angell figures there’s room for improvement in energy conservation – not only to save money, but also to tackle environmental concerns.

Before it started its energy renewal and replacement project, Reed’s total campus carbon footprint was about 9,500 metric tons. When the work is completed, expectations are for an annual reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 1,202 metric tons, and an operational utility cost savings in excess of $2.7 million over the next 10 years, he said.

With the signing of a three-year Energy Performance Contract with Quantum Ameresco, and following an energy audit in 2012, Reed adopted the energy services company’s recommendations for far-reaching work on energy savings through upgrading mechanical systems and equipment. For example, by installing a smaller boiler, completely retrofitting building system thermostats, and replacing lights – along with replacing every faucet, toilet and showerhead on campus.

“We’ve done this before, with low-flow water units,” Angell acknowledged. “But we have lower-flow now.”

Quantum Ameresco was also able to secure $300,000 from Energy Trust of Oregon for this project. The work has begun and will continue in the Reed College Library, Chemistry Building, Educational Technology Center, Eliot Hall, Vollum Center, Sports Center, Gray Campus Center, and the Physical Plant.

On another front, solar panels will also be placed on rooftops “everywhere they’re appropriate,” Angell revealed – adding that solar panels have already been installed by Lite Solar on a college warehouse roof on the west side of S.E.l 28th Avenue, just south of Steele Street.

Angell said the energy from these panels will offset the energy consumption of two warehouses, the Theater Annex, the Birchwood and Reed College Apartments, the Health and Counseling Center, as well as 28 West, and the Farm, Garden, and Canyon Houses.

A third endeavor is an emphasis on sustainability awareness through education. With guidance from Energy Trust of Oregon consultants, an on-campus year-long pilot project is underway “to improve our methods and procedures, and broaden the energy dialogue on campus,” Angell concluded.