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UVM Clean Energy Fund Implements First Round of Projects, Seeks Community Participation

Release Date: 10-08-2010

Author: James Wilcox

Students interested in renewable energy may have noticed a new addition to UVM's course roster this fall: "Energy Auditor and Renewable Energy Retrofit Training" (CDAE 195). This course is one of eight approved projects funded by UVM's Clean Energy Fund during the 2009-2010 academic year that are moving forward this year. Other projects include:

  • A set of sun-tracking solar panels for the Aiken Center located at the U.S. Forest Service building on Spear Street
  • An array of solar panels at the equine center on Spear Street
  • A virtual carport course module utilizing the university's plug-in hybrid electric vehicle offered this spring
  • Solar power and smart grid research projects led by engineering professor Paul Hines
  • An evaluation of biomass potential on the Trinity campus
  • A campus energy dashboard system
  • A solar hot water unit at Slade Hall

The Clean Energy Fund assesses UVM undergraduate and graduate students a $10 fee each semester -- generating about $225,000 per year-- to establish new, clean energy projects on and around the UVM campus.

The idea for the program was launched by students in 2005 and endorsed by the Student Government Association two years later, after a randomized survey of 419 students showed that 68 percent would pay $10 per semester for the development of clean energy for the UVM campus. The fund was approved by the university's board of trustees in 2008.

The fund's 11-member committee called for the first round of proposals in September 2009, receiving 18 applications from a mix of students, faculty and staff. It deliberated for six months before making its recommendations, which were then approved by UVM's vice president for finance and administration, Richard Cate.

This year, the Clean Energy Fund committee voted to try a new method of gathering ideas for its 2010-2011 proposal process that would promote increased student and community engagement around the issue of renewable energy on campus and in how the fund should be utilized. To support this new approach, UVM's Office of Sustainability has developed a website using IdeaScale, a Web application designed to promote collective idea generation and prompt public debate, to serve as a central proposal and discussion hub for potential Clean Energy Fund projects. Similar precedents for this type of crowdsourcing approach include UC Berkeley's Big Ideas @ Berkeley, MIT's Climate CoLab, and the U.S. General Services Administration's Challenge.gov.

With this tool, UVM community members who have ideas for the Clean Energy Fund can make their voices heard, participate in the conversation, and vote on what they think are the best ideas at their convenience. The committee and the Office of Sustainability seek a diverse pool of creative and practical ideas related to energy on campus ranging from renewable system installations and research projects to new courses, workshops, and events and invite UVM students, faculty, and staff participate in this year's Call for Ideas at http://uvmcleanenergy.ideascale.com. The call will last through Oct. 22, after which time the Clean Energy Fund committee will select a initial set of ideas to develop into detailed proposals.




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