Abby O'Brien

The Keene State College campus could be 100 percent solar powered by the year 2030, said Director of Campus Sustainability Cary Gaunt.

Gaunt said that Keene State’s Office of Sustainability has set out to achieve ambitious goals to transform Keene State into a certified “zero waste campus” and a campus completely powered by the sun before the end of the decade. According to Gaunt, these goals were drafted up two years ago and approved by Keene State College President Melinda Treadwell.

“All projects were talked about and approved by the president and her cabinets,” Gaunt said. “To achieve these goals will be a big shift for the campus.”

According to Gaunt, the college is working with Siemens, a sustainable energy services company, to identify all opportunities for energy saving on campus. “We hired Siemens because they are constantly ranked in the top 10 of sustainability in the world,” Gaunt said. “We wanted someone with shared goals who could also walk their talk.”

Gaunt added that during the COVID-19 pandemic, while students and staff were away, Siemens spent nearly 1000 hours looking through every building on campus to complete an investment grade audit. 

“We just got our results of the audit, and we anticipate that through comprehensive actions, our energy savings will save $600,000 per year for the school,” Gaunt said. Gaunt added that the school will be able to pay for this project through the savings alone.

Coordinator of Energy and Utility Services Diana Duffy said that a big part of this initiative is for the school to reduce its carbon emissions to zero or close to zero. According to Duffy, it may be hard to achieve this goal, but it’s not impossible.

“It will be a team effort to get off our reliance on fossil fuels to run this campus,” Duffy said. “I think the campus is up to the challenge, and in my opinion it must be.”

In other efforts to achieve a small carbon footprint, the Sustainability Office is also working to become certified as a “zero waste campus” by 2030. According to the Sustainability Office’s Recycling Coordinator Matthew Bacon, this means that 85 percent of trash on campus must be recycled.

“For an institution to create zero waste is virtually impossible,” said Bacon. “What we’re trying to do is achieve an 85 percent diversion rate, meaning 85 percent of our waste is being kept out of landfills.”

According to Bacon, when they began this initiative in 2017, the school was at around 30 percent, but in just three years that figure has risen to a 50 percent diversion rate. “It’s a really big accomplishment,” Bacon said. “And we have a whole decade to achieve 85 percent. I don’t see why we can’t reach that by 2030. I think we can actually beat that goal.”

Gaunt added that this will represent a big change on campus. “It will save Keene State money, energy and it will help us be a leader in the community by showing the shift from fossil fuels to renewable resources,” Gaunt said.

 

Hunter Oberst can be contacted at

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