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Where does Haverford get its electricity?

It courses through Haverford’s campus along veins of copper and rubber. It lights up hallways, cools down water fountains, and heats up dorm rooms. But where exactly does Haverford’s electricity come from, and is it used efficiently on campus? Here are some basic facts about Haverford’s energy usage.


In a 2007 plenary resolution, Haverford students elected to raise the price of tuition by $60 per student so that the college could afford to purchase 100 percent wind energy.

“It was kind of funny, we were competing with Swarthmore,” recounted Bob Harper, manager of Haverford’s central plant Heating, Venting, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) services. “We would jump to five percent [wind energy], and then Swat would go to eight. Then we said, ‘We’re going to 100.’  You can’t do better than that.”

However, due to the low-wind levels of Haverford’s local geography, the college cannot directly buy wind energy.  Instead, it purchases “offsets” from companies like United Gas Improvement (UGI) Corporation that invest the college’s money into wind energy funds.

“We can’t buy wind energy form the windmills in the Pokonos or Western PA. It’s too far away to get that energy directly,” added Harper. “But when we buy 100% wind energy, we are helping that industry grow and grow.”

Efficiency Everywhere

Harper says the College has been working to maximize its energy efficiency by investing in high-efficiency lights, motors, water pumps and air-chillers to save money on electricity bills while reducing carbon emissions.

“We go for high efficiency everything, and we do whatever we can to save money on that end,” said Bob Harper, gesturing to a promotional doo-dad on his desk from the HVAC supplier company Torbocor. The item looks like a spinning top with a small piece of plastic attached delicately on the side. “We use magnetic chillers from Turbocor to chill our water. It takes very little energy to start up and then magnetics takes care of the rest.”

Harper gives the top a spin and it continues spinning for the length of our conversation.  “The motors are expensive but they pay themselves back in one to two years,” he said.

Part of Haverford’s considerable latitude for engaging in green energy projects stems from an ongoing Climate Action Plan, initiated by the President’s Office and led by Facilities Management and the Committee for Environmental Responsibility.  A major goal of the plan is to dramatically reduce carbon emissions by improving the efficiency of its existing buildings and infrastructure.

In February 2013, the College boosted its energy efficiency by switching the lights of Founders Great Hall from incandescent light bulbs to light-emitting diode (LED) lighting.  LED lights in the Great Hall alone will save 4,608 watts a day, $1,100 a year, and only need to be replaced once every eight years.

In 2004, Haverford participated in the “Do it in the Dark” campaign, a nation-wide competition between college campuses to save energy by turning off the lights. Savings from the Campaign would be re-invested into the Student Activities Fund.

But Harper said because College buildings don’t have utility submeters, which gauge how much gas, water and electricity a building uses, it was difficult to see which buildings were using the most power.

Claudia Kent, Sustainability Coordinator and Assistant Director of Facilities Management, says the College is in the process of submetering all the dorms and major-buildings on campus.

“Hopefully within the next two months you’ll be able to go online and look up how much energy your dorm is using in real-time.  If you were to turn off a light you should be able to see it,” said Harper.

A Computerized System

The College has a centralized computer system that enables Facilities personnel to adjust the air temperature in virtually any room on campus.  Harper pulled up the program on a desktop computer and displayed a schematic overview of Tritton Hall, with small temperature readouts on individual halls and dorm rooms.

“I think 72 degrees is a little warm, so I’ll drop that down two degrees,” said Harper on one common room. “I could keep dropping it if I wanted to, but I’ll just reset it to 70 for now and then go to 68. People sleep here so I don’t want it to be too cold.  We try to save energy but we also try to keep the students comfortable.”

“I can change it from my phone, too,” Harper added, pulling out his iPhone and adjusting a few room temperatures in Barclay Hall. “I’ll go to Gummere now because a student just called and said they’re too cold.”

Harper says this system will be replaced soon for a more enhanced system.

“It’s expensive, about $150,000, but the savings are really incredible,” he sai.

The Future

Haverford has also constructed green roofs on top of Stokes, Kim and Tritton Halls.  The green roofs involve layers of soil and fast-growing plants called sedums that are meant to “help regulate the buildings’ temperature and storm water management, and can take up to an inch of rain instead of letting that water go down the drain,” said Kent.

The College hopes to install solar panels on the roof of the Alumni Field House and installing fuel cell technology in dorms and classroom buildings. However, the very high cost of installing such technology means these projects are unlikely to happen for some time.

“We’re a pretty green college, we really are,” concluded Harper.  “We think about saving our resources in everything that we do.  I think it’s because we’re trying to be good stewards.”

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