School of Forestry will purchase clean energy

The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies is working to add another coat of green to its sustainability credentials.

Starting this year, the Environment School will offset 100 percent of its electricity use through June 2008 by purchasing renewable energy credits from Sterling Planet, a clean energy provider. Since 2003, FES has purchased certificates for only 20 percent of its annual electricity from another renewable energy provider.

But the school itself will not receive any of the renewable energy from the purchases. Renewable energy providers will sell the energy elsewhere in the United States, in locations where clean energy facilities are connected to the power grid. While the Environment School will continue to receive electricity from the University’s primary power plant, an equivalent amount of energy will be sold by a renewable energy provider elsewhere in the United States at the market rate, compensating environmentally for the school’s electricity use.

Environment School Deputy Dean Alan Brewster said the school will ensure that the deal yields non-fossil fuel and non-carbon based electricity equivalent to the amount that the school uses every year being sold in the United States.

“They sell the electricity into the grid at whatever market rate is available, and we are paying the premium,” Brewster said. “They have sold us the green characteristics.”

Brewster said the Environment School had delayed the move to offset its entire annual electricity use for several years due to the overwhelming expense of the RECs.

“We had gone with a group that had provided us more local sources of wind energy,” Brewster said. “This year, we were able to get a proposal from another group that offered nationally-sourced wind and the rate was much lower, so we felt that we could go up to 100 percent.”

Brewster said the purchase will be covered by the Environment School’s approximately $22 million budget, which is independent from that of the University.

The Environment School also plans to install more efficient lighting fixtures and motion sensors in an effort to reduce energy use, said Yale Senior Engineer Thomas Downing, who serves as manager of the FES lighting project.

But these changes will not drastically reduce the University’s total energy use, Downing said, since FES accounts for less than 1 percent of all energy consumed by the University. He said the project will likely save 5 percent of the Environment School’s total energy use.

The Environment School has decided to pay for the retrofits despite the fact that it will return some of its buildings to Yale by June 2008, when the school is slated to move into the developing Kroon Building.

Brewster said he thinks that the school will be paid back for the upgrades at the existing building within three years through energy savings.

“Eventually, some for the buildings will be turned back to the University after the new Forestry building is built and occupied, but Forestry felt that the project was important enough to move forward,” Downing said.

FES Facilities Manager Dominic Scalia said all lighting will be retrofitted to minimize energy use. In turn, the installation of motion sensors is part of a larger project to reduce lighting use on Science Hill. Downing said such devices are slated for installation in 80 buildings within the central campus and Science Hill areas within the next year.

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