Campus News

Bowdoin College Goes 'Green' with Electricity Purchases

Story posted May 22, 2006

Bowdoin College announced today that it will purchase 100% of its electricity from renewable, or "green," sources as part of a continuing effort to improve sustainability and conservation practices on the 212-year old campus.

As part of a landmark agreement with Miller Hydro Group of Lisbon Falls, the College will directly compensate for the use of any electricity from non-renewable sources purchased through the New England Power Grid by directly supporting the production of renewable energy at Miller Hydro's Worumbo Hydro project. Worumbo Hydro, Maine's only independently certified low-impact hydro power facility, is located in Lisbon Falls, eight miles up the Androscoggin River from Bowdoin's campus in Brunswick. The three-year agreement -- the first between Miller Hydro and a Maine institution -- ensures that any "non-green" electricity Bowdoin buys from the New England power grid is replenished with electricity from a clean and renewable source.

"This latest development in our sustainability efforts comes after much recent success in Bowdoin's commitment to improving our environment," said Bowdoin College President Barry Mills. "We are an institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and a college that constantly reminds its students of their responsibility to use their knowledge and education in service to the common good. I believe Bowdoin is obliged to limit its own adverse impact on the environment and to participate actively in efforts to employ new techniques and technologies aimed at the efficient and responsible use of natural resources."

"It's commendable that Bowdoin College is meeting this energy challenge by going green," said Maine Governor John Baldacci.

Maine's Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) require 30% of all electricity sold in the state to come from renewable sources. Since most of the power available in Maine comes from the New England power grid, those wishing to increase their percentage of "green" power beyond the required 30% either have to generate their own electricity from renewable sources or pay a premium to purchase renewable energy credits. These credits, known as "RECs," encourage and provide a market for existing and new renewable energy sources like hydropower, biomass, solar, wind, and tidal projects. Currently, Maine has no commercial-scale wind generation, and the only locally available "green" power sources are biomass and hydro power.

"While there is a modest premium for 'green' energy, we believe this additional expense is warranted and in keeping with many other efforts at Bowdoin to conserve energy and reduce our impact on the environment," said S. Catherine Longley, Bowdoin's senior vice president for finance and administration and treasurer. "We are particularly pleased to be able to supplement our underlying electricity purchases with energy produced by a nearby low-impact hydropower facility on the Androscoggin -- a river that flows through Brunswick and is already the subject of research by Bowdoin faculty and students."

Low-impact hydropower reduces the environmental effects from dams and protects or mitigates impacts in eight key resource areas: river flows, water quality, fish passage and protection, watersheds, threatened and endangered species, cultural resources, and public access and recreation opportunities. The Worumbo project is certified by the Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI), a national independent environmental non-profit organization established in 1999. LIHI's governing board includes representatives from American Rivers, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Appalachian Mountain Club and other environmental organizations.

In addition to the purchase of RECs at Worumbo Hydro, the agreement will allow Bowdoin environmental science students and faculty to use the facility as an educational resource.

"Bowdoin's commitment to purchase energy from an environmentally sustainable source is important in its own right, but what excites me about the Miller Hydro purchase is that the Worumbo Dam is in nearby Lisbon," said David J. Vail, Bowdoin's Adams-Catlin Professor of Economics and the former director of the College's Environmental Studies Program. "I'm sure several of us who teach in the Environmental Studies Program will use it as a handy destination for field trips to demonstrate sustainability in action."

Bowdoin students, many of whom have been actively involved in conservation and sustainability efforts at the College, were also pleased with the announcement.

"The College's commitment to purchasing local, renewable energy is a fantastic development," said Katherine Kirklin, a junior at Bowdoin and a leader of "Clean Energy Now," a student environmental advocacy group. "Bowdoin's purchase of local clean electric power is a fundamental step in the ongoing process of making the College environmentally sustainable -- a goal to which students, faculty, and the College administration are increasingly demonstrating their commitment. It is also an important gesture of leadership. By making this purchase, we as a college community are significantly reducing our contribution to global climate change while demonstrating our commitment to environmental leadership and the Common Good. The efforts of students, faculty, and particularly President Mills and Treasurer Longley should be commended."

Bowdoin's commitment to green electricity follows other conservation and sustainability efforts at the College. These include significant investments in geothermal heating in both new construction and renovation projects; student competitions to reduce energy consumption in residence halls; powering down campus vending machines during idle periods; replacing college-owned vehicles with more cars and vans that use hybrid technology; replacing inefficient CRT computer monitors with energy-saving flat panel screens; and purchasing and installing energy-efficient lighting and appliances, including laundry equipment. Bowdoin is also investigating the feasibility of installing solar power at its athletic field house, and has joined Maine Governor John Baldacci's "Carbon Challenge," pledging to reduce its carbon emissions by 11% by 2011. Earlier this year, Bowdoin was awarded Silver Status certification under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for conservation and sustainability features in two new residence halls.

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