Clean and Green at UNT

The slogan of the Office of Sustainability at the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton is “We Mean Green,” and they do.

Among other sustainability initiatives underway at UNT is the University’s climate action plan to become a carbon-neutral campus by incorporating renewable energy technology. Specifically, UNT proposed to purchase and install three community-scale wind turbines.

Replacing unsustainable energy sources with clean wind collection will reduce UNT’s carbon emissions, as well as energy costs. Ultimately, the turbines will help UNT meet its goal of becoming a carbon-neutral institution by producing clean, renewable electricity.

The First Step, a Feasibility Study
In June 2010, UNT’s Office of Sustainability was awarded a $200,000 grant from the Texas State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study on the proposed wind turbines. Completed in October 2010, the feasibility study explored and determined potential effects of the wind turbines. The study included fish and wildlife assessments, avian studies, noise analyses, air transportation impacts, engineering reports, and statistical estimates. It also included an extensive summary of the educational value of the turbines for current and future academic, research, and outreach programs at UNT. On August 24, SECO awarded UNT the full $2M grant to fund the turbine project, contingent upon its final review of the feasibility study. On November 11, the UNT System Board of Regents approved the project.

The Second Step, Installation
The $2M grant will allow UNT to install three wind turbines that will feed the electrical grid that provides power to UNT’s new football stadium and other buildings on the University’s campus.

The stadium, which will open in September, is the first collegiate stadium designed to incorporate onsite renewable energy. It is expected that the turbines will be installed by the end of this year.

“The effort by the staff of the UNT System and the University to meet the requirements of the Department of Energy and the State Energy Conservation Office to win the grant for these new turbines underscores our commitment to creating a carbon-neutral campus,” says V. Lane Rawlins, president of UNT. “Our University has a 50-year legacy of environmental research and sustainability and we're proud to be the first university in Texas to install wind turbines on campus.”

It is estimated that the three wind turbines will offset the energy consumption of Mean Green Village — the area of campus surrounding the new stadium — by about 6 percent, and eliminate 323 metric tons of carbon dioxide being emitted annually. The turbines will be visible from highways I-35E and I-35W, providing visual evidence of UNT’s commitment to sustainability.

Design and construction of the turbines is expected to begin immediately. At its November meeting, the UNT System Board of Regents selected HKS DesignGreen for the design of the turbines and supporting structure. Raynard Kearbey, UNT System associate vice chancellor for system facilities and his team are overseeing design and construction of the stadium and wind turbines.

“These wind turbines will give UNT a trifecta of benefits,” notes Chris Mundell, sustainable design manager with HKS DesignGreen. “They will be an innovative educational tool for UNT students and faculty. The turbines also will be a symbol of sustainability for all the stadium's spectators. Lastly, they help offset energy consumption of the new stadium, making it one of the most energy efficient in the country.”

Scheduled to open in September, the new 28,000-seat stadium will feature luxury suites, an amenity-filled club level, and a Spirit Store.

The new stadium will be the centerpiece in UNT's Mean Green Village. In addition to hosting UNT events, it will serve the entire North Texas region as a venue for outdoor concerts, community events, high school games, and band competitions.

The new stadium, which will replace 57-year-old Fouts Field, is designed by architects HKS Sports & Entertainment Group, the firm that designed the new Dallas Cowboys’ stadium.

When the project is complete and up and running, UNT will be the first university in Texas to have wind turbines placed on campus property and the first university in the U.S. to integrate renewable technology into an athletic complex and football stadium. The UNT System will be seeking LEED Gold or Platinum certification. If the project is awarded LEED Platinum, it will be the first of its type to achieve this rating in the country.

The wind turbines will be located southwest of the new stadium.

The Third Step, Tracking the Results
A Web-based monitoring system will provide details on energy production, carbon reduction statistics, and empirical data that can be used for both educational and research purposes at UNT. Designed for low wind conditions, the community-scale 100kW wind turbines are well suited for the North Texas region, which has a wind speed average of approximately 12 mph.

Unlike the very large turbines generally found at wind farms, community-scale turbines are considerably smaller and ideal for municipalities, schools, neighborhoods, and universities. The community-scale wind turbines will be installed on 40-meter towers and will have a hub height of 120 ft. The blades are approximately 30 ft. in length. The approximate noise level of the turbines is 55 decibels at 40 meters (131 ft.), which is equivalent to that of a normal conversation between two people.

“The construction of wind turbines at UNT will be an invaluable asset to the University and surrounding communities,” said Richard Escalante, vice chancellor for administrative services. “The reduction in carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels will be a collective benefit for the entire North Texas region. Sustainable initiatives, such as the use of renewable energy technologies, ensure that future generations of the UNT and Denton communities are equipped with the necessary tools to continue economic expansion while simultaneously protecting the environment and human health.”

Buddy Price
is the manager for the News Service for the University of North Texas.

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