All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

One of Canada’s smallest universities may also be the greenest.

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The two windmills of Sainte-Anne U seen behind the old lighthouse.

The two windmills of Sainte-Anne U seen behind the old lighthouse.

I stumbled by chance on the website of Université Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia. I discovered a remarkable energy management story, as well as one of student engagement, that I had never heard of before.

A few years back, the small university (300+ students) was struggling with high energy costs and decided that there had to be a better way. They sent a group to the town of Güssing, in Austria, for inspiration – the town is famous for having recreated itself around new energy technologies.

They came back with a plan for a windmill (they now have two, for 100 kW), hot water solar panels, as well as a wood-fuelled biomass plant to generate electricity and heat for the campus. And, of course, they insulated and looked at any other measures of energy conservation they could implement.

The plan was to reduce greenhouse gases by 90%, as well as energy costs by $200,000 annually, for an investment of $2.5 million. So far so good; the university still uses heating oil, but only one quarter of what they used to, for a saving of $300,000 annually. When the Austrian-designed biomass gasification system comes on stream to complement the wood chips fuelled furnace, heating oil won’t be needed any more. This approach is now touted as a possible model for struggling small towns in rural Nova Scotia.

But the main benefit may well extend beyond the energy savings; being green inspires students, as well. David Dodge, of Green Energy Futures, writes:

The students have noticed this green commitment as well and have taken notice. Chris McDaniel is a bright, young ambitious student who wants to be a teacher. He’s also the vice-president of communications with the student’s union.
“Being a green university, having a green campus makes this place sustainable for the future. It also plays a role in regards to our student population. I believe it brings students in. Students usually come here to study french but if they’re interested in the environment as well this will bring them on board,” says McDaniel.
“There’s a great pride amongst the students in regards to our green projects on campus. When I started here there was a small committee and now it’s developed and it’s grown. We have lots of interest, we have record numbers in our environmental group. We’ve been taking on a lot of new projects, it’s very exciting.”
Attracting, high-quality engaged students might not have been why St. Anne University went down this road but it sure is a nice ancillary benefit. It’s a small example but it’s always a pleasure to see it when a community gets the importance of green energy, comes up with a plan and executes it well.

Well, well. Being green and energy efficient helps attract, motivate, and retain students.  Who knew!

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