Examining UMaine's energy source in light of anti-coal campaign
Although UMaine's steam plant is not among the coal-powered plants across U.S. campuses, we must begin to campaign for more renewable sources of energy.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009 - 14:35
The University of Maine campus operates off of a single steam plant, which generates energy through the combustion of fossil fuels to heat over 80 buildings on campus. Fossil fuels are superheated and cooled and the energy released from cooling and decompression is used to rotate a steam turbine. The UMaine Department of Facilities Management weblink claims that the steam plant uses about 2,688,000 gallons or 64,000 barrels of #6 fuel oil every year. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association defines #6 fuel oil as a "dense, viscous oil" that is the heaviest of all the classes of oil, often referred to as residual fuel oils. Residual oils are the leftovers of crude oil after the extraction of gas and distillate fuel oils.
Although extremely hazardous if ever leaked into the environment, these heavier oils are more efficient (generating 151,300 – 155,900 Btu/gallon) compared to lower classified oils. According to the Energy Information Administration, the combustion of coal emits a greater amount of carbon dioxide per unit than the combustion of oil. So even though our campus does not necessarily fall under the campaign scrutiny of the Sierra Club, who is targeting campuses running off coal-powered plants, there is much our university can do and is currently striving to "green-up" our campus.
Our president has graciously signed the American College & University President's Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) to meet "climate neutrality" initiatives. In an Earth Day speech last spring, President Kennedy announced plans to reduce the energy consumption of our campus, especially replacing the fossil fuels burned at the nearby steam plant. There are several green-energy initiatives already accomplished by our university, including green building certifications and policy changes for car idling that can be all found either in our president's Earth Day address or the UMaine Sustainability Alliance webpage.
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