Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Strategies

III. Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Strategies

Luther’s five-year strategic plan includes a goal to reduce the campus carbon footprint by 50 percent. The College has developed an Integrated Renewable Energy and Campus Sustainability Initiative to achieve this strategic goal that relies on efficiency upgrades, renewable energy generation, limited use of local carbon offsets, and energy conservation education. Some elements of this initiative are already in implementation while others are planned for the next few years. What follows is our current plan for achieving the 50 percent reduction target.

Efficiency Upgrades: In 2004 Luther invested $1.5 million in various energy efficiency measures through a contract with our utility partner, Alliant Energy. This investment has reduced the College's peak emissions by 15.5 percent. Luther has also committed to all major construction projections meeting LEED standards. This includes a new science building that is LEED gold and two major renovations built to LEED standards. Additional efficiency retrofits are planned in the near future.

Renewable Energy Generation:

Wind: Luther plans to install a 1.65 megawatt wind turbine on a highly visible bluff one mile from campus. The turbine will generate 4.935 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of net production per year, which is equivalent to almost 33 percent of Luther's consumption of 14.9 million kWh in fiscal year 2009. The turbine will generate renewable energy certificates that will offset an additional 2,798 MT of greenhouse gas emissions. When these reductions are combined with reduced transmission and distribution losses, the wind turbine project will reduce a total of 3,094 MT of emissions, which represents an additional 14.5 percent reduction from our peak emissions in FY2004. Luther hopes to complete this turbine project by summer 2010.

Biomass: Luther plans to address emissions from campus heating and domestic hot water through installation of a biomass boiler (or similar gasification system) that will work in tandem with Luther's existing heating plant. One 400 horsepower wood fired boiler would supply approximately 59,502 MMBtu of steam heat and displace approximately 62 percent of the college's natural gas consumption. This biomass heating plant would offset another 3,185 MT of greenhouse gas emissions, enabling Luther to reduce its peak campus carbon footprint by an additional 14.2 percent.

Carbon Offsets: Luther’s strategic plan called for limited use of carbon offsets with a clear preference for regional projects with known entities. Luther College has contracted to purchase the entire production of renewable energy certificates (RECs) from a community wind project in St. Ansgar, IA that was recently commissioned in November 2008. The turbine is projected to produce at least 2.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The related RECs will offset an additional 1,418 MT of greenhouse gas emissions, enabling Luther to reduce its peak campus carbon footprint by an additional 7.4 percent.

Energy Conservation Education: Recognizing that a meaningful and lasting reduction in Luther's carbon footprint needs to include both technological and behavioral change, Luther has hired a team of consultants to help us create an energy conservation program for the college. The program will aim to nurture a campus-wide culture of conservation. Luther recently hired two full time sustainability coordinators who are helping with this work and secured a $45,000 grant from the Rocky Mountain Institute for its energy conservation campaign. Our goal is to have a revised program in hand by the end of January 2010 so we can begin implementing a comprehensive energy conservation program at Luther. Luther hopes to demonstrate an annual reduction of 1-2 percent in greenhouse gas emissions as a result of this conservation campaign.

Additional Strategies: With over 80 percent of Luther’s carbon footprint coming from electricity and heating, the above measures are the cornerstones of our strategy for emission reductions. At the same time, however, Luther is committed to taking all available steps to reduce energy usage and emissions, including the following:

  • Fleet vehicles: The College’s fleet now includes eight hybrid vehicles, seven all electric vehicles, and one compressed natural gas truck. All diesel vehicles, including lawn mowers, run on biodiesel made on campus from waste vegetable oil collected from the college cafeteria. Luther is committed to continuing to shift its fleet to alternative fuel and ultra low emission vehicles.
  • Solar: While investments in efficiency and wind energy are primary strategies for reducing emissions from electricity, the College commissioned a feasibility study for a small scale solar photovoltaic (PV) system. In addition, Luther is studying solar hot water as an option for heating the college swimming pool in the near future.
  • Carbon sequestration: Luther College owns approximately 1,000 acres of land, roughly two thirds of which are natural lands in forest, prairie, wetland, and savanna. Luther students and faculty are studying options for maximizing carbon sequestration on college lands and the college is updating land management plans through its Land Use Committee. The College recently placed roughly 130 acres of river bottom land in a permanent conservation easement through the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
  • Waste reduction: The strategic plan calls for a reduction in solid waste of 25 percent and Luther is pursuing multiple strategies to meet this goal. The College’s Sustainability Program is researching ways to divert more material from the waste stream through improved recycling and composting, increased education, and waste reduction events.
  • Local foods: Luther has been working on sustainability in food service for many years with a particular emphasis on local foods. These efforts were formalized with a strategic plan goal that 35 percent of all food purchases would be local within five years. The College should pass the halfway mark this year with nearly 20 percent local purchases. Supporting our local food system has many benefits including reduced carbon emissions.

Added together, these mitigation strategies will dramatically reduce Luther’s carbon footprint. Specifically, the investments in energy efficiency (15.5 percent), biomass energy (14.2 percent), wind energy (14.5 percent), and renewable energy certificates (7.4 percent) will enable Luther College to cut its peak greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent. Figure 2 shows Luther’s projected emission reductions from these mitigation strategies.

Carbon Neutrality: At this time, Luther College has chosen to focus all its efforts on the short term goal of reducing our carbon footprint by 50 percent. This is an ambitious, yet achievable goal that recognizes the need for immediate action, not simply planning for the distant future. After reaching this short term target, Luther will then look ahead to next steps including further reductions. We have not set a date for carbon neutrality and believe that it is premature for Luther College to do so at this time.

Figure 2: Projected Emissions Reductions from Mitigation Strategies

Figure 2: Projected Emissions Reductions from Mitigation Strategies