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June 19, 2006

Student fees, intern program boost 'green' campus

By Louise Donahue

The “greening” of UCSC is picking up speed.

From students raising their fees to back renewable energy to interns brainstorming energy-saving ideas, the campus is continuing to build on earlier efforts by students, staff, and faculty. (See May 8 Currents story)

In spring-quarter elections, students gave their ovewhelming support to renewable energy, with 69 percent voting to assess themselves a new $3-per-quarter fee starting in fall 2006. The fee will fund the purchase of renewable energy certificates to offset campus use of electricity.

Beginning this fall, 100 percent of the campus' electrical energy will be purchased with renewable energy credits. The UCSC campus uses more than 27 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year, 85 percent of which was purchased from fossil fuel generation plants. The student-approved measure provides significant financial support to developers of wind farms and other renewable resources, such as photovoltaic harvesting arrays, and reduces UCSC's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. The credits offset the cost of purchasing renewable resources.

“I had a feeling the students would support it,” said UCSC Physical Plant energy manager Patrick Testoni of the fee increase. “There are a lot of students coming up with viable solutions.”

Among those looking for solutions will be two student interns, Tommaso Boggia and Lauren Mills, hired to help implement a new Green Campus Program for the 2006-07 academic year. The program is part of the Alliance to Save Energy, a federal initiative funded by utility surcharges. UCSC was selected in May for the program, which has been successful in promoting energy conservation at several UC and CSU campuses. “It will be a continuing program as long as it’s funded by the federal government,” Testoni said.

The paid interns will begin working this summer to develop programs and campaigns to roll out to the campus body beginning this fall. They will work closely with campus staff, ASE regional manager Stephen Miller, and Green Campus interns from other UC/CSU campuses, with the overall goal of delivering measurable energy savings to the UCSC campus. The Green Campus program is an education and outreach program seeking energy savings on campuses, primarily through low-cost technology adoption and no-cost behavior changes.

While much of the focus has been on new initiatives, an existing UCSC Physical Plant conservation program got a boost recently.

Plant personnel earned an honorable mention in a Sustainable Operations Competition for their retrofit of the Earth and Marine Sciences Central Chiller Plant. The retrofit involved engineering modifications to allow the use of outside air as "free cooling" of the chilled water that supplies the interior heating loads. The automated strategy is an innovative application of heat exchange that takes advantage of often-cool Santa Cruz air to save electricity and reduce wear on the building's cooling equipment. Award winners will be recognized at the Annual Sustainability Conference in late June at UC Santa Barbara.

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