PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Since constructing a midsize turbine on campus at the University of Maine at Presque Isle in May 2009, the college has received a great deal of state, national and international attention for its efforts to lessen its impact on the environment.
Now, those efforts have led to the campus receiving the inaugural 2010 Second Nature Leadership Award for Institutional Excellence in Climate Leadership.
The award in the public baccalaureate category was presented late last week at the fourth annual Climate Leadership Summit of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment held in Denver.
Second Nature Leadership Awards were presented to recognize the best examples of climate leadership activity among the academic climate commitment group membership. In recognizing UMPI, the organization highlighted the university’s installation of its midsize wind turbine on campus in 2009. The university was the first university in the state — and one of only a handful in New England — to install a midsize wind turbine to generate power.
The installation has produced more than 800,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity since its installation, campus officials said on Tuesday, creating energy savings and significantly reducing the campus’ carbon footprint. The educational mission of UMPI has also been enhanced as the turbine installation is integrated into curriculum at both the university and local community college, plus it serves as a community resource.
Don Zillman, president of UMPI, said on Tuesday that campus officials are “so happy” about having received the award. He noted that there are 674 educational institutions, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, in the ACUPCC.
“That is a huge network, and it says a lot that we were singled out from such a big pool,” Zillman said on Tuesday. “And the award addresses more than the fact that we have established this windmill that is helping to better the environment and reduce our carbon footprint. It also recognizes all of the other steps we have taken to lessen our environmental impact, both through instituting instruments on campus to do so and through our curriculum changes that have taught others about the environment and the little things they can do to lessen their own impact.”
The ACUPCC includes a broad range of American universities and colleges such as Duke, George Washington, North Carolina, Brandeis, Ohio State, California, Bryn Mawr, Colgate, Middlebury, Rice and Smith.
Zillman said he believes that UMPI’s focus on green energy on campus is enticing more colleges in the UMaine system and across the state to see what they can do to reduce their energy consumption.
“I think that every campus in the system is now putting more focus in that area,”
Zillman said. “And that is a good thing.”
In May, the university began offering the first of what officials say will be many energy courses to students and community members. The first three courses were energy law and public policy, sustainability management and energy fuels. The classes marked the beginning of an Energy and Sustainability Concentration in UMPI’s academic programming. In September, several more energy-related courses, including classes focusing on climate change and renewable energy, were offered for students and community members interested in the subjects.
In late 2009, campus officials learned the college had secured $800,000 in federal funding for a solar energy initiative. The money will fund the design and installation of photovoltaic solar panel arrays that help convert solar energy into electricity. The university also will establish an automated weather station to collect information on solar radiation levels. The station will provide baseline data for future use of solar energy, while also promoting undergraduate research.
That project continues moving forward, according to Zillman.
Gov. John Baldacci and Richard Pattenaude, chancellor of the University of Maine System, offered congratulations on the award.
“I commend the University of Maine Presque Isle for the steps they have taken to address climate change, and congratulate them on receiving recognition outside of the state for their pursuit of renewable, sustainable energy,” said Baldacci.
“We are proud of UMPI’s commitment to sustainability and the education of students and the community about it,” said Pattenaude. “In addition, this project helps the environment, provides a meaningful reduction in the campus’ annual electric expense, and collaborates with Northern Maine Community College. What more can you ask for in one project?”
The UMPI website features a first-of-its-kind online program that displays up-to-the-minute data points about UMPI’s turbine. The data include the latest wind speed figures and power generation in kilowatt-hours. All of that information and more is available at www.umpi.edu/wind and clicking on “Live Turbine Data.”