We have a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2020 as outlined in the Sustainability 2020 strategic plan.
Professor Steve Letendre’s renewable energy technology applications class developed a roadmap for this goal in 2015 that features a heavy short-term investment in power-purchase agreements that will slowly be phased out over time as more renewable energy is installed on campus by students.
We are well on our way with several different renewable energy applications on campus and in surrounding towns. On campus we have a 5.8 kW solar electric vehicle charging station, a 3.8 kW solar roof array on the Olwen garage, a 150 kW solar farm near the parking lots, a 150 kW turbine in our co-generation biomass plant, a 150 kW solar array in Benson, Vermont, and more. We also buy renewable energy credits for 50% of most of our small buildings on campus through Green Mountain Power’s cow power program.
Solar Charging Station
The 5.8 kW solar array between Dunton and Richardson was installed as an electric vehicle charging station in 2013 under the leadership of Professor Steve Letendre. The project cost $32,400. A GMP grant paid for $12,500, while a State rebate paid for $3,366, leaving $16,534 to be paid for by GMC through the College’s revolving loan fund. The project has a payback of approximately 14 years. The payback comes from electricity credit that GMC receives on its bill when the net-metered system isn’t charging cars and is producing energy that is flowing back to the grid. Feel free to charge your vehicle there whenever one of the parking spots are open. The electrons are on us, or we should say, the sun!
The garage known as Olwen was built in 2014 by renewable energy and ecological design students in only one semester! Under the leadership of professors Lucas Brown, Steve Letendre, and others, the students designed the building, poured concrete, built the structure, and installed a 3.8 kW solar array on the roof. The garage now powers an ELXD GEM fully electric truck that is used primarily for farm chores, such as harvesting vegetables. The project was made possible by a $50,000 grant from Constellation Energy’s “E2 Energy to Educate” program. Live data from the garage can be viewed here.
150 kW Solar System on Campus
This large solar farm was built in the fall of 2013 with the help of several student volunteers and several alumni who are now working in the solar industry, such as Sarah Fitch ‘13 and Khanti Munro ‘05. GMC entered into an agreement with a private investor to create the facility in order to help build the solar capacity of the region as part of the Sustainability 2020 initiative to have a net positive impact on natural capital. The solar facility is also a great source of data for student projects. Live solar production from the facility can be viewed here.
150 kW Solar System in Benson, VT
In 2014, the College finalized a partnership with Aaron Kelly, an investor and solar installer who built a 150 kW system on his land in Benson, VT in order to provide the College with clean, solar electricity. GMC agreed to purchase all of the electricity produced by the panels, while Aaron agreed to transfer the renewable energy credits to the College. This project offsets nearly 10% of our electricity every year. You can view production here.
Our combined heat and power central plant provides over 85% of the heat and hot water needed on campus, but it’s also capable of producing electricity as a by-product of the heat creation process on days when it’s really cold and the demand for heat is high. In 2009 the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF), administered through the Vermont Department of Public Service, helped the College meet the cost of a steam turbine generator through a $250,000 grant. The turbine is capable of generating up to 400,000 kilowatts of electricity each year if demand for heat is really high. Fortunately, demand for heat has not usually been that high, so the turbine hasn’t produced more than 4% of our electricity on any given year so far.
Wind Power on the Hill
“Through independent studies and projects, internships, and very open-minded faculty, I was able to create my own education; something quite rare at the undergraduate level,” says Khanti Munro ’05, a self-designed, renewable energy applications major, who is now a major figure in the solar industry in Vermont.
In 2005, Munro and his brother Noah were interested in alternative energy technologies, and what began as an independent study to simply learn about wind power quickly grew far beyond their original intent. They were soon attending zoning hearings and planning the logistics of delivering a wind turbine to campus. With a vision and a plan, they developed and built a windmill that helped to power the new greenhouse on the farm – another result of student vision and determination – and it now serves as an invaluable resource for GMC’s farming operations.
The Munro brothers also installed a solar photovoltaic system (solar PV) on the farm as well. This system was upgraded by students in 2010, when four underutilized 120-watt panels on the roof of Withey Hall were added. The PV panels now produce electricity and feed a battery bank to power the greenhouse.
Small family farms in Vermont are having an increasingly difficult time making a go of it. For decades, large industrial farms have been driving smaller dairy operators out of business. With these displaced farmers goes a way of life that has been a central part of the state’s agricultural character.
Owned and operated by three generations of the Audet family, the Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, Vt. represents the new face of agricultural entrepreneurship.
Thanks to the Audet’s vision, technology maintained by Green Mountain Power, and electricity customers like Green Mountain College, the state’s power grid is a little greener. So are the pocketbooks of local farm families.
The Green Mountain Power Cow Power program converts methane gas from manure on Vermont dairy farms into electricity, and Green Mountain College became one of the first Cow Power customers in 2006.
Cow Power participants pay a premium of 4 cents per kilowatt-hour on a portion of their electricity consumption and money generated by the program funds grants to local dairy farmers to develop on-farm generation capacity. GMC currently purchases Cow Power for 50% of the electricity consumed at Griswold, Feick, Richardson, the President’s House, the Two Editor’s Inn, the soccer field, and the barn at the farm.