TTU campus goes a little greener this fall with sustainable campus fee projects

With more than $112,000 of environmentally friendly sustainability projects in the works, Tennessee Tech University will be going a little greener this fall.

These are the first campus projects that will be funded by the sustainable campus fee of $8 per undergraduate student per semester that was approved by a student vote in fall 2005.

The projects include:

• purchasing two electric vehicles to offset gasoline vehicle usage and installing solar panels on them for charging;

• replacing incandescent lighting with more efficient metal halide fixtures on the intramural fields;

• replacing steam control valves for more efficient residence hall heating and reduced coal consumption;

• modifying the university’s diesel generators to operate on a 20 percent blend of biodiesel fuel;

• and purchasing $1,500 in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Power Switch program.

When TTU’s fee increase was presented to the Tennessee Board of Regents, along with a similar fee approved by Middle Tennessee State University’s student body, Chancellor Charles Manning recommended those fee increases be approved on only a one-year basis, so the TBR could further evaluate and set guidelines for such programs.

A statewide energy task force was convened at the same time TTU’s campus energy task force was charged in fall 2006 with making recommendations for ways to use the first year’s collection of the fee.

The statewide energy task force discovered participation in TVA’s Green Power Switch program did not generate additional clean energy from new equipment, such as wind turbines and solar panels. Instead, the existing TVA equipment was already supplying as much clean energy as possible to customers — at an availability of 25 to 30 percent.

As reflected in the TBR guidelines, which were ultimately completed and enacted in June, the task force recommended that the greatest clean energy gains would come from measures to reduce the load on existing generation equipment.

“All of our first-year projects are in compliance with those guidelines,” said Larry Wheaton, TTU’s facilities engineer and chairman of the campus energy task force.

The guidelines provide each campus with flexibility in regard to sustainability issues and allow the continuation in future semesters of the self-imposed tuition increase.

“The effort to continue the fee at TTU and other TBR institutions was as important as our recommendations for the first-year projects,” he said.

“Those projects were emphasized to reduce the campus carbon footprint and benefit TTU students,” he continued. “As local utilities improve the capacity to generate more clean energy, participation in those programs will be considered by future sustainability committees.”

At this time, TTU’s energy task force has a total budget of approximately $139,000 at its disposal, and any money remaining after the implementation of this year’s projects will be added to funds collected during fall 2007.

“Next year’s sustainability committee will also be accepting ideas and initiatives which comply with the TBR sustainable campus fee guidelines,” Wheaton said. “Current projects are within budget and well on their way to completion.

“We applaud the students’ leadership in self-imposing the additional fee for environmental stewardship and encourage returning students and new students to get involved with issues of sustainability,” Wheaton concluded.

TBR sustainable campus fee guidelines, current project status and more information about TTU’s sustainable campus fee can be found at http://www.tntech.edu/sustainable/home/.

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