Volume 76, Number 21 | October 11 - 17, 2006

N.Y.U. finds the answer is blowin’ in the wind

By Lincoln Anderson

Giant wind turbines at Upstate Fenner Farms, from which N.Y.U. will be buying energy.

New York University last Thursday announced that it would purchase some 118,000,000 kilowatt-hours of wind power, an amount equivalent to the power the university purchases annually from Con Edison. It will be the largest purchase of wind power by any U.S. college or university, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership Program. It will be the largest purchase of wind power by any institution in New York City and the 11th largest purchase nationally.

The decision to buy wind power, which was announced by Michael Alfano, N.Y.U.’s executive vice president, is part of a broader sustainability initiative — to be called the N.Y.U. Green Action Plan, or GAP — that Alfano unveiled at last week’s N.Y.U. University Senate meeting.

Having evaluated proposals from three “green energy” partners, the university expects to go forward with an agreement to purchase wind power through Community Energy, Inc., which has had significant experience with other universities and large institutions. N.Y.U.’s purchase of wind power will enable the generation and addition to the electrical grid of renewable, clean energy in an amount equivalent to that currently purchased by the university from hydrocarbon-fuel-based electricity generators. This offset is achieved through the purchase of “renewable energy credits” from wind-power producers. The university will purchase a mix of nationally generated and locally generated wind energy.

N.Y.U. President John Sexton participated in last month’s Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York, at which global warming was a key issue under discussion.

“It was a sobering dialogue, one that has caused me to think even more deeply about what role universities in general, and N.Y.U. in particular, should play in addressing the great challenges of our time, from climate change to extremist violence to poverty,” Sexton said in a release from N.Y.U.’s Office of Public Affairs. “The full nature of those responsibilities will only emerge, I believe, out of a long discussion on our campus involving students, faculty, and administrators. But, in the meantime, this decision — which will lead to more electricity being added to the grid from clean sources, rather than from fossil fuel sources — is an important step for our campus to take.”

Alfano said — in the same release from the university’s Office of Public Affairs — “We are all familiar with the increasing pressures from the burning of fossil fuels that risk our health, compromise our national security, and imperil the planet. This purchase of renewable energy, our pursuit of greater conservation and the promise of a more sustainable campus are institutional responsibilities, consistent with our community’s values and made more relevant by the mayor’s recent announcement of an ambitious environmental agenda for New York City, of which N.Y.U. wants to be a part. Cities and universities share an important characteristic — they are the places that draw in mankind to confront, contemplate and address our most pressing challenges. It is in that spirit that we take this step.”

N.Y.U. has also created a new position: assistant vice president for energy, engineering and technical services. John Bradley was hired in June 2006 to develop and implement a comprehensive energy strategy that includes cogeneration and alternative energy sources, operation of the university’s cogeneration plant, identification and implementation of energy conservation projects and development of engineering standards for N.Y.U.’s facilities that will improve their energy efficiency and infrastructure reliability.

As part of the broader GAP initiative, the university is reviewing proposals for N.Y.U.’s co-generation plant to increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions significantly below E.P.A. standards.

N.Y.U. also plans to join the U.S. Green Buildings Council, which will enable the university to access “best practices” for green building design and incorporate those ideas into strategic planning.

The university is considering establishment of a new environmental studies major.

The university is reviewing sites for additional bike racks around campus to encourage bicycle commuting.

N.Y.U. is considering hiring new employees to expand its recycling program. N.Y.U. currently recycles up to 30 percent of its waste stream.

As part of the N.Y.U.-GAP initiative, Alfano named Lynne Brown, senior vice president for university relations and public affairs, and Alison Leary, vice president for facilities and construction management, to lead a universitywide Task Force on Sustainability. The task force — which will be composed of students, faculty and administrators — will bring forward ideas, mobilize the community and help develop a realistic set of goals to enable N.Y.U. to move forward its sustainability initiative.

In related news, N.Y.U.’s buses and trolleys for its students have all become more environmentally friendly too. Seven years ago, Villagers raised a cry about the vehicles, since they ran on diesel fuel, criticizing them for adding pollution on the streets. But, speaking on Tuesday, Alicia Hurley, the university’s associate vice president for government and community affairs, said the entire fleet — including trolleys and buses — is now run only on ultra-low-sulfur fuel, which, she noted, “is the new ‘environmentally friendly’ version of diesel fuel.”

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