There are moments when it seems as if we may be losing the climate change battle, a simple case of too little too late. But at this year’s TEDxAmericasFinestCity event Byron Washom – UCSD’s new Director of Strategic Energy Initiatives – energized the crowd with his story of a project that puts the University of California, San Diego in a class by itself when it comes to alternative energy sources and sustainability.
The story begins some 16 miles south of the campus at a wastewater treatment plant on Point Loma. The methane generated by this plant, which was previously flared as waste, is purified and piped to a 2.8-megawatt fuel cell that’s the largest on any college campus and will provide nearly 8% of UCSD’s energy needs. This innovative project will not only eliminate the pollution previously caused by burning the flared methane, it will generate clean electricity to operate the campus.
“At the same time that California’s energy leaders are creating a smart energy grid, UC San Diego is creating a cutting-edge version of it on campus. UC San Diego’s experience in combining fuel cell and energy-storage technologies as part of its growing smart energy grid will enable it to collaborate on a variety of related future projects with the U.S. Department of Energy, the California Energy Commission, Sandia National Labs, the Electric Power Research Institute and other governmental and electric utility entities.”
While this system will spend the majority of its time directly powering the campus grid, four hours per day has been set aside to either charge batteries, compress air, or utilize other energy-storage devices. This stored power can then be discharged back into the grid during peak energy demand periods.
But the UCSD campus is no stranger to clean energy initiatives. The Hopkins Parking Structure, pictured above, was specifically designed with the vision of installing solar panels on the top floor and generates nearly 500,000 kWh per year. And if you are wondering how that translates to protecting the environment, the effect is measurable:
Avoided Annual Emissions
- Carbon Dioxide: 473,306 lbs
- Nitrogen Oxides: 430 lbs
- Sulfur Dioxide: 323 lbs
Pounds of Coal Displaced
- 280,197 annually