Oberlin College has initiated a bold energy project to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 by upgrading the century-old heating infrastructure serving its campus to a hot water system. This work will enable a large-scale geothermal and heat pumps system, add cooling to buildings, and implement other building improvements that will increase student and faculty comfort year-round. Ever-Green led carbon neutrality planning, led the design and planning process, serves as the owner’s representative in implementation, and is operating, maintaining, and managing the new system.
Ever-Green’s study and planning phase concluded that there were several carbon-free strategies that could help Oberlin achieve its goal. This effort has included a comprehensive assessment of building performance, fourth generation distribution system solutions, and carbon-free energy sources.
In 2020, the partners completed the implementation study of the project with an emphasis on analyzing the most feasible carbon-free source of energy. The analysis included landfill gas with combined heat and power, biomass, geothermal, and solar energy. In March 2021, it was determined that the system would transition from natural gas to geothermal as its primary energy source. Construction began in May 2021 and is scheduled to continue through 2024.
Read more on Oberlin’s Carbon Neutrality website
Ever-Green began its partnership with Oberlin College in 2015, working toward meeting Oberlin’s 2025 goal. Ever-Green led the Carbon Neutrality Implementation Plan for the Oberlin campus with an emphasis on energy and water utilities. Efforts included data collection, identification of building energy efficiency opportunities, exploration of renewable energy source options, development of financial strategies, and community and campus engagement. Oberlin was committed to finding a solution that was implementable and financially pragmatic that could result in substantial and permanent carbon reductions across campus.
Beginning in 2019, Ever-Green led implementation of the planning recommendations, which included design of the campus conversion from steam to hot water, verification of the optimal carbon-free energy supply strategies, utility organizational planning, development of financing strategies, and continued campus and community engagement.
Through construction, Ever-Green is serving as the owner’s representative and providing engineering expertise. The team also supports academic enrichment, stakeholder engagement, and project communications. Ever-Green’s planning helped to document the project’s alignment with the goals and targets of the Paris Climate Agreement, securing Certified Climate Bonds funding. This is only the second Certified Climate Bond offering among US colleges and universities, and third in the world.
Oberlin College is a four-year liberal arts college and conservatory of music with a reputation for leadership in campus sustainability. Oberlin’s Office of Environmental Sustainability takes a multidisciplinary approach to advancing sustainability for campus and community resilience.
From the Oberlin website:
“Since the first greenhouse gas inventory in 2007, the college has halved on-campus emissions through the purchase of green electricity, installation of a 2.27 MW solar array, energy efficiency projects, and ending the use of coal for heating.” Oberlin is committed to being a carbon neutral campus by 2025.
The Oberlin team works closely with Ever-Green to engage students, faculty, staff, and community partners, including the City of Oberlin, and local civic, business, and community groups. It was a priority of the project team to interact with a broad group of perspectives and to learn from the local experts who understand and have a significant stake in the outcomes of this effort.