In addition to having one of the top engineering programs in the country, the Oregon Institute of Technology is a shining example of eco-friendly sustainability and renewable energy use. OIT introduced the very first Bachelor of Science program in Renewable Energy Systems. Their renowned Geo-Heat Center also serves as a national hub for geothermal information and development. Oregon’s elected leaders also chose OIT to be home to the Oregon Renewable Energy Center.
OIT is located within the city of Klamath Falls, Oregon. The city itself is known for its proximity to natural geothermal springs which it currently uses to provide geothermal heat to homes, schools, commercial buildings, municipal government buildings, process heat for the wastewater treatment plant, and for snowmelt systems for sidewalks and roads. Nestled in the Klamath Basin on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains, Klamath Falls is surrounded by stunning natural beauty; certainly an inspiring setting for creating an environmentally-conscientious culture.
Geothermal CHP Power Plants
Given the long history of the use of geothermal as an energy resource in Klamath Falls, it is only fitting that the Oregon Institute of Technology built the very first university-based geothermal combined heat and power plant in the world.
Since 1964, OIT has been using geothermal to provide heat for the entire campus. The first low-temperature power plant was installed in April 2009 and it provides about 10% of OIT’s electricity. A second, much larger 1.75 MW geothermal power plant has also been added on campus and is scheduled to be completed by December 2013.
Solar Photovoltaic Panel Array
Klamath Falls calls itself, “Oregon’s City of Sunshine.” Generally, the sun shines there 300 days out of the year. OIT wants to power itself entirely using clean renewable energy. To help achieve this goal, OIT is installing a 2.0 MW solar array. The 7,800 solar panels optimally placed on nine acres of hillside will generate enough electricity to power approximately 35% of the campus. The solar array at OIT will be equivalent to 225,150 gallons of gasoline saved.
OIT claims that when used in conjunction with the soon-to-be completed 1.75 MW geothermal power plant, the campus should be able to generate most, if not all, of the electrical power it needs.
On The Way to Becoming a Climate Neutral Campus
It’s hard enough for a 4,000 student campus to be powered by 100% clean renewable energy, but it’s even harder to be 100% Climate Neutral. Yet that’s exactly the goal that OIT is setting for itself. It hopes to be climate neutral by the year 2050. They are already working diligently to accomplish this by:
- Increasing energy efficiency
- Improving waste management
- Developing facilities, enhancing food service on campus
- Practicing sustainable landscaping
- Using alternative transportation
- Practicing better water conservation
- Procuring supplies and materials from as many local sources as possible, as well as making sure they are made from a maximum amount of post-consumer recycled material
- Continuing research
Also of interest is OIT’s Village for Sustainable Living, three student housing facilities totaling 92,418 square ft.
We’re pleased to see Oregon Institute of Technology’s sustainability initiatives along with its dedication to minimizing its impact on the environment and its ambitious use of renewable energy systems. But we’re even more thrilled at the fact that OIT is providing the education and training necessary for our future leaders and innovators of renewable energy systems.
Contributor: David Johnson blogs for multiple companies on issues surrounding energy and the environment. He is also a musician who understands the delicate balance in life, separating harmony and discord, and remembering that all things are connected, including our environment and ecosystem.
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