Oberlin College’s Sustainable Infrastructure Program

Sustainable Infrastructure Program Will Transform Our Campus Over Next 4 Years

This year, an exciting phase of campus work will get underway to help Oberlin College reach its ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. This infrastructure modernization project is critical to making our campus more sustainable and resilient. It also means lots of activity on campus to upgrade our infrastructure, make our buildings more efficient, and connect geothermal as the carbon-free source for heating and cooling. Also visit our FAQ for more information.

Please read President Ambar’s message to the community about this project. 

Upcoming Program Activity

Work is in progress with lots of activity on campus. Weekly updates will provide detail on upcoming work, including installing fencing, parking lot closures, building conversion activities, and eventually excavation to start replacing antiquated steam pipes with modernized hot water pipes to deliver geothermal to campus.

Keep up with weekly information on our activity updates page.

Or sign up for weekly updates.

Via Text – Text “JOIN” to 440-340-7570

Via E-Mail – Click this link to subscribe 

Information Sessions

Project information sessions were hosted on May 25-26 and previously on March 23-24, 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.
Oberlin Distribution

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.

Neighborhood Benefits

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.

Additional Resources

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.

Community Partners

Design, Construction, and Planning Partners