University of Lynchburg, Randolph, Sweet Briar and Emory & Henry colleges, and Hollins University, will become the first institutions of higher learning in Virginia to provide 100 percent renewable electricity to their respective campuses using methane gas from landfills. The colleges are offsetting between 50 and 70 percent of their total carbon footprints.
Steve Bright, University of Lynchburg’s vice president for business and finance, estimates that LC will save at least $1.8 million during the life of the 12-year contract. Collectively, the colleges estimate a savings of between $3.4 million and $6.4 million over the next 12 years.
Metering changes will require several months, but LC should be getting all of its electricity from landfill gas by spring 2014.
The five schools have entered into agreements with Collegiate Clean Energy (CCE), an affiliate of Ingenco, Virginia’s largest landfill gas (LFG) to energy operators.
Landfills account for 35 percent of all manmade methane emissions in the United States, and by capturing those emissions, LFG to energy projects preserve the environment while reducing the need for fossil fuel.
“Landfill gas is 21 times more destructive to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide,” explained Thomas Loehr, president of CCE. “By converting LFG, we all enjoy a dual benefit of reducing greenhouse gases and at the same time producing renewable energy.”
Electricity generated from LFG will be delivered to each college through the distribution system owned by Appalachian Power Company.
“As with any utility, water, gas, or electric, the distribution system delivers the product,” Loehr explained. “We put 100 percent renewable electricity into the distribution system to cover the colleges’ needs. While we all know that electrons cannot be traced individually, we are displacing the amount of fossil fuel currently being used with electricity generated by landfill gas, which is a renewable fuel.
“One of the unique features of the Renewable Energy Certificates is that they are generated from power facilities and landfill gas in the Commonwealth of Virginia and can be tied directly to our contract with each College.”
The Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV) coordinated the sustainability initiative. Robert Perrow, a partner with the Richmond law firm Williams Mullen, represented CICV in negotiating and preparing the agreements.
“Virginia’s private colleges have always been interested in being at the forefront of sustainability and protection of the environment,” said CICV President Robert Lambeth. “Our members were open to investigating the opportunity to purchase 100 percent renewable energy produced in Virginia, and CICV was happy to provide the help needed to make these agreements a reality.”