A renewable energy initiative being spearheaded by UB — and made possible through funding from New York State — aims to invest in the region while reducing energy costs for a who’s who of Buffalo-area anchoring institutions (The City of Buffalo, Erie County, The University at Buffalo, Buffalo State College, and SUNY Erie). It could also help save taxpayer dollars while creating more efficient budgeting for the participating institutions.
It’s called Localizing Buffalo’s Renewable Energy Future, and the plan calls for the creation of 100 megawatts of renewable energy- enough to provide 50% of renewable energy for participating partners, mostly in the form of solar power, by 2020.
Key to the process is what’s known as a power purchase agreement, or PPA. It’s a different, more cost-effective way for large energy users to purchase power. For many bigger institutions, like a city or a university, annual energy costs are unpredictable and uncontrollable because the electricity rates vary depending on the market. Utility costs can fluctuate, but generally increase over a period of years.
A PPA, however, is a contract that locks in a fixed energy price over an extended period of time, anywhere from 10 to 30 years. That means that the buyer purchasing the power — in this case, Buffalo, Erie County and several colleges — will be able to know for a long time exactly what their energy costs will be, and can budget accordingly.
The GRoW (Garden, Relax, or Work) Home is the University at Buffalo’s entry into the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2015. It is an international competition held every two years where 20 collegiate teams are invited from around the world to design, build, operate, and market an ultra-efficient home. The competition challenges teams to develop a sustainable project that performs well in 10 individual contests, ranging from Architecture and Engineering excellence, to Market Appeal and Energy Balance. Through their efforts over 200 students and faculty from 13 different departments across 5 separate schools from 2 universities have come together to develop a comprehensive proposal to represent Buffalo on an international stage. Through this extremely rare opportunity, the students are able to work in a highly collaborative and vastly interdisciplinary fashion to gain real world experience through a common objective, all before they graduate. In this manner, the GRoW home serves as an ideal model to bridge the gap between research-based academia and practice-based industry.
Through the funding received from REV, the GRoW Home will be permanently housed on UB's North Campus. It will become a student engagement space for direct or curricular and experiential learning activities related to clean energy. It can also be used for a meeting space for sustainability oriented groups on campus, as well as local non-profits focused on clean energy. Continuing the educational dimension of the GRoW Home, the house would be opened to K-12 schools, as well as college students outside UB, professional organizations, and community groups for tours and events.
While moving towards climate neutrality is a key piece of UB’s sustainability strategy (as well as Buffalo State and Erie Community College)—it is secondary to the goal of creating sustainably literate and engaging students who will work throughout their professional and personal lives to create a better tomorrow. This initiative, seeks to leverage this priority in two key ways:
· identify and act on opportunities to integrate clean energy principles into curriculum
· Facilitate knowledge transfer throughout experiential learning to the campus and broader community
One way to achieve this is to utilize our own operations as a pedagogical teaching tool because learning by study is important, but learning by doing with instruction is more effective. What this initiative seeks to accomplish is creating a pool of engaged students who help mold and shape the initiative, provide the fuel and energy to assist in building a truly integrated program and pass on their knowledge and shared experience to the broader student community.
Along with curriculum and course work, this project will focus on two areas of engagement. The first is the internal engagement at the University at Buffalo. This constitutes current and former students, faculty, and staff that are all a part of the campus community. Engaging students can be on an individual level through classes, coursework and experiential learning, or it can be through student clubs, external engagement and academic groups.
The second area of engagement is for the Western New York region at large. Buffalo-Niagara has a population of about 1.2 million people, therefore engagement must be strategic. The region has a breadth of organizations and institutions doing great work within communities already. The types of external stakeholders that will be engaged are; other universities and colleges, governmental agencies, schools, non-for profits, and neighborhood residents.
On Campus Engagement:
Off Campus Engagement: