University to complete green projects by fall 2010

Before next fall VCU will have completed several green energy projects around campus that will help the university take another step toward its goal of carbon neutrality.
Earlier this fall, Gov.Tim Kaine said the designation of $25 million in stimulus funds were for "green energy projects" around Virginia. The university received $3.1 million of those funds.

VCU will use the investment for photovoltaic installations on the West Main Street and N Deck parking facilities, and solar thermal installations at Shafer Court Dining Center as well as one of the pools on the MCV campus said Ed Bennett, executive director of VCU's Physical Plant.

"We knew (project funding) was out there, and we knew it would (take) some work," Bennett said. "But we were willing to do the work because the benefit of being able to have this kind of technology in a major way on campus was an opportunity we didn't want to just let pass by."

The photovoltaic additions - electricity-generating solar panels - will contribute to 20-30 percent of the electrical needs of the parking decks on which they will be installed, Bennett said. Though they will be attached directly to the decks, they will not take up any parking spaces.

At Shafer Court, the pool at MCV, and possibly the Cary Street pool, solar thermal technology will be used to generate hot water.

But these energy-efficient projects have more than savings in mind.

Aside from contributing to the university's sustainability goals, the projects have an educational purpose. The university will become a real-world demonstration of the use of these technologies to its students and to the larger community, according to Bennett.

The university was one of a small number of institutions, along with Virginia Tech and various other state institutions, to receive funding for its green renovations.

"The reason we would go the extra mile in order to be able to compete for those things is because we just, from a sustainability perspective, think it's the right thing to do, and we need to demonstrate that," Bennett said. "And the right thing to do was to try and be competitive for funds that would help us."

The university's commitment to sustainability has shown in its College Sustainability Report Card results over the past few years, Bennett said.

"We've continually improved our green report card score," Bennett said. "We went from a C- to a B- to a B this year."

The College Sustainability Report Card offers "comparative evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities" of colleges and universities around the nation and in Canada, according to its website.

Bennett also attributed the university's growing energy efficiency success to the active participation of students in sustainability efforts. Organizations such as Green Unity 4 VCU have made it their goal to promote sustainability on campus and among other students.

These projects are just one indication, said Bennett, of "the commitment that the (VCU) administration does have to, in a pragmatic way, move VCU along the timeline to become carbon neutral."
Virginia Commonwealth University
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