Moving from Coal to More Efficient Fuels
It's a remarkable stride, considering that five years ago the university was still using an outdated and inefficient coal-fired, central steam-heating plant.
Faculty members in business and the natural sciences conducted research into various forms of heat—from coal, to woodchips and corn stover (stalks and leaves left in fields after harvest), to turkey manure. In 2014, the university decided to convert from the centralized coal plant to a decentralized system that put high-efficiency, natural gas boilers into 18 different campus buildings.
It was a risky decision, Coyne says, but one that has paid off in terms of enhanced energy efficiency, reduced impact on the environment and cost savings. The campus now uses 21 percent less energy to heat its buildings, resulting in a 45 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
Further efficiencies have been achieved through building automation. Smart controls use computers and sensors to adjust lighting, heating, air conditioning and fresh airflow—keeping buildings comfortable for occupants while maximizing energy usage. A retrofitting effort is also increasing the number of low-flow water fixtures and low-flush toilets.
CEER Home to Exciting Research, Activities
Some of the most exciting environmental work is happening at the Center for Environmental Education and Research (CEER).
The CEER's 87 acres are home to a conglomeration of environmental activities, from research to gardening to beekeeping.
"The CEER is such a unique asset for Susquehanna," says Katherine Straub, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and CEER director. "How many universities have a freshwater ecology lab, a student-run garden, experimental ecology research plots and a solar array within a 10-minute walk from the campus center? The CEER is essential to the university's sustainability goals, both in terms of operations and student engagement."
Funded by a $2.25 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Susquehanna's Freshwater Research Initiative and laboratory are at the CEER's hub.
Here, faculty and students work collaboratively with a network of more than 30 nonprofit groups, government agencies and other academic institutions to monitor the ecological health of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.