Yale Bulletin
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The solar panels atop the Yale Divinity School's Fisher Hall provide 17% of its power.

New energy programs helping Yale to achieve its
goal of reducing greenhouse emissions 43% by 2020

There is a simple website at Yale that shows how much electricity is being generated at any given moment by the 255 solar panels atop Fisher Hall at the Yale Divinity School (http://view2.fatspaniel.net/FST/Portal/SunlightSolar/yale/HostedAdminView.html).

The output of the photovoltaic array ebbs and flows over the daylight hours, but the cumulative kilowatt hours generated continues to grow over the days, weeks and months, providing about 17% of the hall’s energy.

The deep blue solar panels are just one facet, albeit a highly visible one, of the University’s commitment to addressing climate change. Along with a host of other projects and practices, the solar panels reduce Yale’s dependence on fossil fuels and cut its emissions of the man-made greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

Under the leadership of President Richard C. Levin, Yale is addressing the issue of global warming by dropping the annual emissions from its facilities by 43% within 15 years, which would cut the University’s emissions to 10% below the level in 1990. Yale must achieve its target — which is consistent with the Climate Change Action Plan adopted by the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers — while the campus continues to grow.

To go from more than 260,000 Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (MT CO2e) in 2005 to under 150,000 by 2020, Yale is pursuing a program of conservation, renewable energy, such as the solar power installation at the Divinity School, and direct participation in carbon offset projects.

“Every one of us on campus has a role to play in helping achieve this goal, by conserving energy and by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that flow from its use,” Levin said to the Yale community when the University’s goal was announced. “Effective conservation programs can further free up funds within the University budget that will in turn be invested in renewable and non-CO2 emitting forms of energy.”


Conserving energy, whatever its source, takes many forms at Yale, with investments prioritized to bring the greatest reduction in emissions at the fastest time. Yale has upgraded the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in about 90 of its buildings, generating significant energy savings. The installation of occupancy sensors tied to lighting in scores of buildings is well underway. The University is also installing programmable thermostats in buildings that are not part of the central control system.

In March 2006, Provost Andrew Hamilton and Vice President for Campus Development Bruce Alexander announced changes in Yale’s heating and cooling practices. During non-business hours, building thermostats are set at 60 degrees during the heating season and at 80 degrees during the cooling season. Hamilton and Alexander said the measures would produce an anticipated reduction of 7,800 metric tons of annual carbon emissions and an operating savings of over $1 million.

One of the challenges established by Yale’s greenhouse gas reduction commitment was for Yale College students in the residential colleges to reduce their energy consumption by 15% over three years. The reward for success would be the purchase by the University of renewable energy certificates, or RECs, to offset the students’ electricity use. The students are two-thirds of the way toward meeting this challenge, and the University has purchased RECs to cover two-thirds of their electricity consumption. Part of the students’ success has been the distribution among them of 5,000 energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs for use in their rooms, and better vigilance about turning off lights when they are not needed.

Renewable and alternative energy

Solar: In addition to the solar power installation at the Divinity School, a 100 kilowatt photovoltaic system will be part of Kroon Hall, the new home of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Science (F&ES).

Yale will also employ thin film photovoltaic technology. Unlike traditional solar panels, thin film solar panels are manufactured in sheets that can be tailored to fit almost any roof surface. Yale is installing the technology on the southern-facing roof of its undergraduate Swing Dormitory. The installation, rated at 15 kilowatts, is expected to provide up to 5% of the building’s electricity.

Geothermal: Ground source heat pumps are being installed in Kroon Hall at F&ES, which is under construction. (See related story, this page.) This geothermal system takes advantage of the fact that the temperature a few feet below ground on campus is approximately 55 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. By pumping water at that constant temperature from the ground up to the building, air can be warmed in the winter and cooled in the summer, dramatically reducing the energy cost of heating and cooling a building. A refrigerator is based on the same principle of moving heat.

Fuel Cell: Yale has a fuel cell power plant providing 25% of the electricity for the Class of 1954 Environmental Science Center near Yale’s Peabody Museum. The 250-kilowatt fuel cell generates electricity with no combustion. It operates like a large battery generating electricity as long as fuel, such as natural gas, is supplied. Since the fuel is not burned, there is none of the pollution commonly associated with the combustion of fossil fuels. The high efficiency of the fuel cell reaction produces more electric power from less fuel.

Wind: A set of small “microwind” turbines are slated for installation in the summer of 2008 near the Kline Biology Tower. Eight to twelve turbines, rated at 1 kilowatt each, will be placed on the raised platform that surrounds the courtyard in front of the building. The turbines will catch the wind as it travels up the side of a building. Under seven feet tall and weighing 60 pounds, these compact units require a breeze of only seven miles per hour to generate electricity.

In 2009, Yale hopes to be one of first customers in the United States to take delivery of a qr5 microwind turbine from the British company Quietrevolution. Unlike traditional turbines, whose blades have to shift to face the wind, the qr5 turbine features “eggbeater”-style blades that capture wind from any direction and generate little noise.

Tom Downing, energy manager in Yale Facilities, said Yale’s solar and wind projects have benefits beyond the clean energy they produce. “The projects will be installed at strategic locations around campus where students, staff, visitors and community members can see them in operation, raising awareness about renewable energy technology,” he said.

Yale's co-generation facility has dramatically reduced its dependence on outside power suppliers.


One of Yale’s most significant environmental accomplishments in recent years is in the co-generation of electricity.

Yale’s modernization of its Central Power Plant and its redesigned distribution and metering of electricity, water and steam, was completed in 1998. The project transformed the plant into a co-generation facility that produces both steam and electricity from its fuel. This has significantly increased the efficiency of Yale’s energy production and reduced the amount of energy that the University buys from its outside power utility. Yale plans to replace its other power plant, at its School of Medicine complex, with another co-generation facility.

New Construction

Storm water collection, recycled materials, occupancy sensors, geothermal wells, maximizing use of natural light — Yale is taking full advantage of these and other green features in designing and operating new buildings on its campus. (See related story, this page.) The result is energy savings, reduced environmental impact and more inviting spaces for faculty, students and staff.

Two recently completed buildings, the Daniel L. Malone Engineering Center and the Sculpture Building, are leading examples of green construction and design. The Malone Center earned a “Gold” LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification under the U.S. Green Building Council rating system and the Sculpture Building has secured a LEED “Platinum” rating, which is the highest.

Kroon Hall will take green building at Yale to a new standard and should also secure a Platinum LEED rating.

“For the present, we will continue to approach projects using the LEED process while seeking financially viable energy reduction strategies to optimize greenhouse gas reduction,” said Jerry Warren, Yale’s associate vice president for construction and renovation. “We are currently starting a new benchmarking phase considering our own experience and the experience of other institutions.”

Yale’s greenhouse gas reduction strategy

Yale’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy covers 15 years, from its beginning in 2005 until 2020. During that period Yale plans to bring its emissions down to 10% below its 1990 levels.

That is a goal consistent with the plan adopted by the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers and it is within the range of estimates of what is required to keep global temperatures from rising two degrees centigrade. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has forecast that a level of warming beyond that would bring much more consequential economic, social and environmental disruption.

Yale’s goal would require a 43% reduction in emissions, which are measured in Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (MTCO2e), produced as a result of the output of the University’s own power plants and the electricity it purchases. Yale, however, will continue to grow during that period. At the time Yale’s strategy was adopted, growth of 15% was planned. Here are the numbers of MTCO2e in Yale’s strategy, with expected campus growth included:

Projected Emissions in 2020 if no action is taken350,000 MTCO2e

Required Reduction to achieve the 1990 level203,000 MTCO2e

Emissions Goal for 2020147,000 MTCO2e

Since Yale implemented its strategy, the University has achieved a reduction of 44,174 MTCE, or 21% of its goal.


Leading by action to promote a better future

New energy programs helping Yale to achieve its goal of
reducing greenhouse emissions 43% by 2020

Newest campus buildings have many earth-friendly features

Office works to make sustainability ‘everyone’s business’

In dining halls and classrooms, project raising awareness about relationship between ‘people, land and food’

Recycling ensures University’s trash is not going to waste

Regulated waste gets special treatment at OEHS

Eli Exchange

Adding zip to Yale’s sustainable transportation options

F&ES dean is an advocate for environmental action on and off campus

Yale experts tackling wide range of environmental issues

Scores of educational programs are devoted to ecological topics

‘Eco-friendly’ Yale merchandise

Yale Bulletin & Calendar