Projects - Energy

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Global Problem
With the effects of climate change on the rise, most of the energy consumed by Americans is still by and large attributable to fossil fuels. Only 9 percent American energy consumption occurs in renewable energy.
U.S. Renewable Energy

Local Solution
Purchased electricity and heat make up 65 percent of Macalester’s greenhouse gas emissions, so energy use on campus is a major focus for reduction. The Sustainability Plan includes a goal of investing in energy efficiency and switch to carbon-neutral fuel sources. We will research opportunities and partnerships in energy efficiency projects that have a five-year financial payback or better, and any new projects will include mechanisms for monitoring energy use and tracking cost savings so as to be well-informed about and able to fund future projects. Macalester is also looking to eliminate fuel oil usage by switching to natural gas by 2015.
Sustainability Plan

How Are We Doing?
Macalester’s long-term efforts in energy efficiency have already resulted in use reductions. Reviewing data taken from 1988-89 to 2008-2009, both electricity use and heating fuel use per gross square foot (GSF) have decreased.

Check out the Social, Economic and Environmental Sustainability Progress Report for the data.

Energy Projects

Recommissioning Olin Rice
Facilities Services re-commissioned Olin-Rice Science Center, the largest energy-user on campus. The lights and vent hoods were placed on occupancy-sensors to ensure that the building is only heating or cooling spaces when needed, and the electric motors in the heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) system have also been changed to more efficient variable speed drives. These adjustments saved the college over $50,000 in annual energy costs in 2007.

College House Renovations
In association with the Clean Energy Revolving Fund (CERF), Facilities Services has undertaken renovations on the Cultural House as well as several of the language houses. For example, language houses have been fitted with blown insulation.
Macalester’s Clean Energy Revolving Fund (CERF)

DeWitt Wallace Library
Library computers are set to go to "sleep" during periods of non-use and to automatically shut down each night.

The library also uses automatic turn-off lights in the stacks to save energy, leaving only safety (perimeter) lights on overnight, and all large-sized fluorescent bulbs have been replaced with ones using slightly less energy.  We’ve posted signs on the hand-dryers to remind students that these can be turned off manually.  

The library recently added a flat-screen TV to staff training space, and encourages staff participation in "webinar" training and professional development opportunities, which reduces the amount of air travel by staff.

Many library staff are choosing not to replace their desktop workstations and instead opting for laptops, which use up to 80 percent less energy than desktop workstations.

Lightbulb Replacement
Facilities Management, in conjunction with Macalester’s Clean Energy Revolving Fund (CERF), is replacing all 32W 4ft fluorescent bulbs on campus with 25W bulbs, which emit the same amount of light but use 1/3 less energy. This project alone has projected savings of $30,000 annually.
Macalester’s Clean Energy Revolving Fund (CERF)

Information Technology Services
ITS reduces energy by choosing environmentally friendly vendors, donating electronics, and virtualizing servers. Check out ITS's sustainability web site to find out more and to see how you can lower your energy use.
ITS website

Wind Turbine
In April 2003, Macalester College installed a 10 kilowatt BWC Excel wind turbine. It was the first of its size in the City of St. Paul and also one of the first on any college campus. The turbine generates some electricity for Olin-Rice Hall, Macalester’s science center.  It provides an educational opportunity for students, staff and faculty to research and learn about wind energy, wind patterns, geography, environmental studies and the practicality of wind turbines in urban areas.


  • Bergey Windpower Co. designed and manufactured the turbine.
  • 90’ tall with three 27' propellers for a total height of 103’
  • Sound level of 44.1 dBA at a distance of 100’ which is equivalent to “white sound”

History: In the early 1990s, the Minnesota State Legislature required Excel Energy to donate money to the research and development of sustainable energy sources as part of a bill that allowed the company to expand its nuclear storage facilities.This fund covered some of the cost of placing a wind turbine on Macalester’s campus. The site was deemed advantageous because it was not in the migration path of any birds, it offered a great opportunity for alternative energy education, and could serve as a symbol of Macalester’s environmental awareness and efforts.

Cost: About $35,000 was donated by Excel Energy to cover the manufacturing cost of the turbine. Macalester’s 2003 senior class gift paid for the installation, approximately $16,000. When the turbine was installed, it was estimated to pay for itself within 15 years. However, the height and location limits the turbine’s effectiveness, which results in the turbine generating less energy than was originally estimated. If well maintained, a turbine can last 20 to 30 years.