Saturday, November 26, 2011

What's the Alternate?

What about all the other alternate energies? Sure, Rutgers has done a bunch about going solar, but there are plenty of other alternate energies to consider! I asked Michael Kornitas, the Energy Conservation Manager and Sustainability Coordinator at Rutgers, about some of these other types of energy and whether or not Rutgers uses them.

I started with the only other alternate energy source besides solar that seems to have had success in recent years: wind. According to Kornitas, it just isn't feasible at the moment for Rutgers to invest in wind energy. "We looked into it. We realized pretty fast that we can't put up windmills any time soon. The technology just isn't all there yet and there isn't really a good location for us at the moment. Maybe in the future if the technology develops better, we can think about it. For now, we're just keeping our ears open for news about wind energy."

Hydro power? "No," Kornitas said. "Hydro energy is definitely not an option at this time. We only have the Raritan and it doesn't flow fast enough for us to even think about harnessing energy from it. There just is no way. We've done plenty to use less water, though. We also updated our storm water standards. New Jersey has some of the strictest standards in the world, but ours are even stricter. We're definitely wasting less water. But for energy? We can't do that yet."

Well how about this geothermal energy field I've been hearing about? Thats an alternative form. What about that? "Well thats actually pretty cool," Kornitas said. "We just got it up and running through the Business School on Livingston. Its in between Beck and Levins.

Theres going to be a big auditorium also thats using it. The geothermal field basically is heat and steam from below the Earth's crust that we capture. We use it as energy to regulate the heating and cooling the these buildings. We've got more than 300 wells all around this field trapping energy that helps power the Business School and this new auditorium. They are both LEED buildings, by the way. We are going to use it as much as we can." But what about the environmental impacts? "Its totally environmentally friendly. We aren't disturbing anything by having these wells. We don't even need water or anything. It just all comes from inside the Earth. We made sure it was harmless."

Are there any other alternative forms of energy here at Rutgers? "Wanna hear something cool? We have this cogeneration plant. Do you know what that is?" No. "Well, its basically a facility where we can create synthetic energy a the university. Its 13 megawatts. We make our own electricity there. Turbines are working there all the time to create heat. The turbines move with a combination of waste heat from the plant itself and natural gas which generates electricity. We even rent the plant out sometimes, which makes us alot of money." Anything else? "Yeah well theres our energy bill. We buy some of our energy from nuclear sources. Theres alot of nuclear energy in New Jersey. Our energy provider is Hess, like the Hess gas station, and they provide a certain percentage of nuclear energy to us every year."

Will there be more alternate and sustainable sources of energy at Rutgers in the future? "When wind gets there, we'll definitely hop on board. We're always looking for new ways to power the university. We don't want to be unsustainable. When the technology is there, we'll line up at the door to get at it."

Image Credit: Judia Group,r:1,s:0

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