Oberlin College’s Sustainable Infrastructure Program
The Sustainable Infrastructure Program (SIP) is focused on upgrading the century-old heating infrastructure serving campus to a hot water system. This work will enable a large-scale geothermal system, add cooling to buildings, and implement other building improvements that will increase student and faculty comfort year-round. These improvements are the tangible outcomes of Oberlin’s earlier commitments to the American College and University Presidents’ Carbon Commitment and the 2025 carbon goal.
YEAR 1 ACCOMPLISHMENTS
OBERLIN COLLEGE AND CONSERVATORY SECURES $80 MILLION IN CERTIFIED CLIMATE BONDS FOR SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAM
Exciting news for the SIP initiative, this Bond enables Oberlin to take the next major steps on this four-year project to build the new energy infrastructure and geothermal energy system for the campus. The Certified Climate Bonds status verifies alignment with the goals and targets of the Paris Climate Agreement.
“From Stanford to Oberlin, Schools Rush to Tap the ESG Bond Market,” Bloomberg, January 28, 2022.
SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAM WILL TRANSFORM CAMPUS OVER NEXT 4 YEARS
This year, an exciting phase of campus work is underway to help Oberlin College reach its ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. This infrastructure modernization project is critical to making campus more sustainable and resilient. It also means lots of activity on campus to upgrade our infrastructure, make buildings more efficient, and connect geothermal as the carbon-free source for heating and cooling. Visit our FAQ for more information.
SIP Construction Updates
Phase two construction will start in summer 2022, and the team will resume regular updates on the project at that time.
Keep up with construction information on our activity updates page.
Or sign up for updates.
Via Text – Text “JOIN” to 440-340-7570
Via E-Mail – Subscribe here
Previous Information Session Recording
Project information sessions were hosted in spring 2021, with presentations about the Sustainable Infrastructure Program and how it will lead Oberlin College closer to its goal of a carbon-neutral campus by 2025.
View session linked below from May 26 or see the info session slides for more information.
Building for Our Future
Oberlin College is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2025. To reach this goal, Oberlin College leadership has been working to identify renewable alternatives to fossil fuels and create more efficient ways to deliver and use energy on campus and in the community.
Moving Forward with Purpose
- Increasing the reliability of the energy system
- Reduces the energy and carbon profile of the campus and connected community partners
- Creates opportunities for more renewable and carbon-free energy sources
- The system can be expanded to serve the community
- Significantly decreases water losses
- Financial savings over time that can be invested in other programming
Considering Ways to Decarbonize
Achieving carbon-neutrality for the campus relies on three types of improvement: 1) improving building and system efficiency – to reduce the energy needed for the campus; 2) improve the distribution of energy – primarily through switching from steam to hot water distribution; and 3) connecting carbon-free sources. Earlier in 2020, it was decided that a carbon-free future for Oberlin College would depend on the transition to a hot water system. Learn more about why these systems are better in the FAQ.
In 2019, nine different low-carbon or carbon-free sources were reviewed as options to serve the campus. These included two types of Geoexchange—aquifer thermal energy storage and geothermal, biofuels, biogas, biomass, capturing heat from power production using landfill gas, and incorporating either solar or wind production with electric boilers. These scenarios were compared to what is known as a business as usual scenario, which looks at more traditional energy production with fossil fuels, which is the primary approach for serving Oberlin’s heating and cooling today.
These options were thoroughly vetted, with consideration for environmental impact, greenhouse gas emissions, financial impact (short and long-term), and ease of integration into existing campus systems. Geothermal was selected as the best carbon-free source option for Oberlin College.
ADVANCING THE SYSTEM WITH HOT WATER DISTRIBUTION
Connecting buildings on campus and in the community through district energy, is an efficient and reliable way to deliver heat to buildings. The original system was built in 1913, using steam, but now modern systems are using hot water to increase efficiency and connect more carbon-free energy sources. For Oberlin to achieve its carbon neutrality goals, it is time to make the switch.
Developing this new district energy system together creates the opportunity for Oberlin businesses, nonprofits, schools, and other partners to utilize the best available technologies to deliver reliable energy that is less dependent on fossil fuels, but also economically competitive.
- Oberlin College Office of Environmental Sustainability
- Oberlin College Carbon Neutrality Homepage
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Informational Videos
- Oberlin College Carbon Neutrality Resource Master Plan, Implementation Strategy, and Economic Approach
Carbon Neutrality Partners
Ever-Green Energy has been a partner to Oberlin College since 2015. Ever-Green led the 2016 Carbon Neutrality Implementation Plan for the Oberlin campus with an emphasis on energy and water utilities and has recently led implementation of the planning recommendations, which include 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.
Design, Construction, and Planning Partners