Campus Energy

Stevens Institute of Tech to Fill All Electricity Needs from Renewable Sources

A New Jersey university has announced that it intends to fill all of its electricity needs from local renewable energy sources by October 2021. Stevens Institute of Technology said its annual electricity consumption was enough to power the equivalent of 6,984 homes for three years. Now the institution has signed a three-year agreement with energy "greentailer" ENGIE North America, in a deal facilitated by energy consultant Gotham 360.

A typical route for schools to offset their use of fossil fuels is by buying renewable energy certificates, or RECs, as a path toward generating cleaner energy. Stevens has used this method for "years," as a way to support long-term clean energy adoption. While RECs may show a commitment to adopt clean energy in the future, they primarily serve as a proxy for true fossil fuel reduction.

Under the new arrangement, according to Robert Maffia, vice president for facilities and campus operations at Stevens, the school will be using "physical power, local to our grid, and 100 percent renewable."

As he explained in a campus article, "By sourcing 100 percent of our electricity from wind, hydropower or solar energy sources in our region, we will not be relying on fossil fuels to power our campus." Those energy sources will be identified by ENGIE.

"This is significant," he added, "because we are not adding carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to our atmosphere. This is a huge step forward in not only reducing our carbon footprint and creating a greener, healthier campus, but also supporting renewable energy facilities in our region."

Stevens has long taken measures to reduce its environmental impact, including installing solar panels wherever possible across campus. As Maffia noted, however, given the size of the campus, the energy produced from those solar panels amount to just a fraction of what's needed. "This investment will allow us to make an impact far greater than limiting our renewable energy to the constraints of what we could produce on campus," he said.

Other energy-reduction initiatives have included the installation of LED lighting at nine campus academic buildings; a commitment to LEED Silver or higher construction standards; and the addition of two new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to the six existing EV chargers on campus that provide free charging to the Stevens community. Stevens also pursues a "robust" campus recycling program and uses bioswale, bioretention planters and several rain gardens on campus to collect storm water runoff and prevent flooding.

The university offers a master's program in sustainability management and a graduate certificate in sustainable energy systems and has integrated sustainability in its curriculum for many other graduate and undergraduate programs.

"Our commitment to sustainability aligns perfectly with our commitment to students and the campus community," Maffia said. "A greener campus isn't just better for the environment — it is healthier, more productive and more enjoyable for those who live, study and work here."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.