A major transition
How can UMass Amherst achieve carbon zero given the challenges posed by our large, historic campus and our cold climate? The highest-impact component of our transition will be the large-scale conversion of our campus energy infrastructure. We plan to transition from fossil-fueled steam production to a modern, hot-water heating system paired with geothermal heating and cooling, and to utilize stored solar energy and energy from the rapidly greening electrical grid. As the first step in this major undertaking, we will soon test the geothermal capacity of selected campus properties, after which we will undertake a far-reaching proof-of-concept project involving 42 campus buildings from across construction eras with different HVAC systems.
Our carbon-zero feasibility assessment
Our energy transition efforts intensified two years ago when Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy created a campus Carbon Mitigation Task Force and charged it with finding out if, how, and how quickly UMass Amherst could achieve 100 percent reliance on renewable energy sources for heating, cooling, and electricity usage on our campus. We formed a consulting team composed of engineers and other experts, received input from hundreds of staff, faculty, and students, and made a rigorous assessment of the work needed. The team concluded that carbon zero is indeed technologically achievable and outlined a path to reach carbon neutrality many years ahead of the 2050 target set by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to decarbonize statewide energy systems.
Our recent feasibility study quantified the vast advantages of revolutionizing the campus energy system. Seventy percent of the energy consumed by our campus is used to heat buildings with steam. A new energy system would require 65 percent less energy, lowering operational expenses by about 20 percent, even while accounting for projected campus growth.
Energy transition funding
UMass Amherst will develop a diverse portfolio of external funding to offset the cost of UMass Carbon Zero infrastructure improvements and Living Lab programming through grants from federal, state, corporate, and philanthropic sources, as well as via energy- and decarbonization-related funding. We envision a concerted, multi-year effort that engages sponsors, alumni, corporate donors, and diverse stakeholders in partnerships to support a campus that embraces the transition to renewable energy across all domains—from facilities and physical plant to education, research, and community service.
Our carbon-zero future
With support from the UMass community, our carbon-zero project will transition the campus to 100 percent renewable energy as we build a new infrastructure that will sustain a net-zero carbon emissions campus energy system for generations to come.