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Climate Neutrality: Watts of Improvement

Electricity is magical. Plugging a cord into an electrical socket charges a cell phone, constructs an image across the TV screen, or creates a beautiful display of lights in the dark. Unfortunately, most Americans take this power for granted. Even though we in the U.S. constitute 5% of the world’s population, we use 26% of the world’s total energy (EIA). This indicates that we are contributing the most to climate change, since 35% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gases come from the energy supply sector (IPCC).

To address this issue, Santa Clara University, among other universities, has set an ambitious goal to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy usage by 2020:

  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation
  • On-Site Renewable Energy Generation
  • Purchasing Green Power

By 2029, SCU aims to be completely carbon-neutral (energy plus emissions associated with university-funded travel and commute).

Energy Efficiency and Management

SCU uses an Energy Management System to regulate temperature, lighting, and overall campus energy consumption. To improve our controls of energy supply and demand, SCU is creating a smart microgrid to provide real-time data, ensure energy security, and allow for the integration of other renewable energy systems. It is currently in the first phase of the project, but once complete, it will help reduce energy use by 50% and save energy costs by 20%.

Moreover, many buildings have taken actions to reduce their electricity usage:

  • Mayer Theatre changed their stage lighting to LEDs to use less energy - which also reduces air conditioning needs
  • Heafey Law Library, Orradre Library, residence halls, and Bannan Engineering received lighting upgrades
  • Several buildings have light sensor installations to adjust lighting based on the amount of natural light entering the room

Let it Shine!

SCU prides itself on all its renewable energy, especially our photovoltaic arrays. We currently have 1,100 kW worth! Given the sheer amount of PV arrays, our campus prevents the release of 880 tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 176 cars off the road for an entire year!

Besides PV arrays, SCU also has a new high-temperature solar hot water system on the rooftop of Swig Hall.

Planning for a Brighter Future

Our Carbon Neutrality Task Force is exploring solutions to help us continue to reduce emissions even though our campus is growing. The Campus Sustainability Investment Fund supports projects pertaining to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas emission reduction. Any student, faculty, and staff member can submit an idea for a project (this means you!). (Proposals are due Week 8 of each quarter.)

Cropped gross emissions graphCropped net emissions graph

Despite the 27% increase in population and 47% increase in campus area since 2005, our energy usage has not increased! Due to all of the methods mentioned above, our net greenhouse emissions have dropped by 27% since 2005 and we have already reached carbon-neutrality for our electricity usage.

However, SCU strives to continue reducing our carbon emissions, especially in the transportation area. For more information on reducing your own carbon footprint and saving energy, click here!



Solar panels on the roof of the Malley Recreation Center, Santa Clara University