UBC’s footprint reduction contest

The University of British Columbia is holding a contest where participants will set out plans on how to make the Point Grey campus “net positive” in terms of energy and water, as well as reduce greenhouse gas output. The grand prize is $5,000, second prize is $3,000, and third prize is $1,000. The contest is open to UBC community members (ie: Student, Staff, Faculty, Researcher, Resident or Alumni).

Net positive water output seems like something that could be achieved fairly easily. You would capture and purify rainwater, use it to cover all on-campus activities, and export a bit into the water system beyond. It would require infrastructure spending, but it seems clear that it could be done.

Net energy output (in a zero carbon way) might be trickier, though I presume it isn’t necessary for the campus to be exporting power to the grid all the time. As long as net exports are positive, it seems fair to call the campus “net positive” on energy. Wind and solar are the obvious renewable options, though UBC isn’t really an ideal location for either. My guess is that the best option would be to install wind and solar capacity, while retrofitting buildings to make them much more energy efficient.

Contest guidelines are online. (PDF)

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

17 thoughts on “UBC’s footprint reduction contest”

  1. What about generating electricity from tidal fluctuations? UBC might have more coastline than any campus in the world.

  2. What’s the mean tidal range in Vancouver?

    Apparently, 2m of range is worth 1 watt per square metre enclosed. 4m is worth 3 watts, 6m is worth 7 watts, and 8m is worth 13 watts (all provided you collect energy going both into and out of the enclosures).

  3. To break even on net energy production, it seems that UBC would need to generate 138,477 megawatt-hours (MWh) per year. At a 100% capacity factor (like a nuclear reactor) that means about 16 MW of generating capacity is required. At a 33% capacity factor (like many wind farms), about 47 MW would be necessary. That’s akin to about 31 fairly large wind turbines.

  4. If we use the 4m figure of 3W/m^2 (3 MW/km^2), that means producing 138,477 megawatt-hours (MWh) per year would require an enclosure with a surface area of about 5.26 square kilometes (138,477 / 8760 hours per year / 3 MW per square km).

  5. The Rance tidal power plant (Usine marémotrice de la Rance in French, Stankell vordredan ar Renk in Breton) was opened on the 26th November 1966 and is the world’s first electrical generating station powered by tidal energy. It is located on the estuary of the Rance River, in Bretagne, France. It is operated by Électricité de France (EDF).

    The barrage is 750 metres long, from Brebis point in the west to Briantais point in the east. It is located south of Dinard and Saint Malo, at the mouth of the river.

    In total, the plant cost 620 million Francs – roughly 94.5 Million Euros.

    [The plant has a] peak rating of 240 Megawatts for its 24 turbines. Annual output is about 600 million kWh, or about 68MW average power.

    In spite of the high cost of the project, the plant’s costs have now been recovered, and electricity production costs are lower than for nuclear power generation. (1.8c per kWh, versus 2.5c per kWh for nuclear)

  6. The Rance tidal power plant produces about 4.5 times what UBC needs. If the Euro figure cited above is current, it equates to about $147 million Canadian.

    UBC needs about 1/4.5th of the power from Rance, suggesting a UBC facility might cost about $33 million, if located at a site comparable to Rance (i.e. not at UBC itself).

  7. I bet the readers of this site could collectively cook up a submission, splitting the money among contributors if we win any.

  8. Reduce UBC’s Carbon Footprint and Win $ 5000!

    Stage 1: Vision letter- Deadline: Midnight, June 5th. In less then 600 words, tell us how UBC can become a “net positive energy and water campus”

    Stage 2: Detailed Proposals- Deadline: Midnight, June 30th

    Additional details to be announced on June 17th to the top stage 1 contestants.

    Two Stage 1 Vision letter contestants will be randomly drawn and awarded $500. Thats right – you could win $500, just for submitting a short letter.

  9. If it is acceptable to build the generation capacity offsite, my guess would be the most cost-effective option would be paying to add either some or more turbines to an existing hydroelectric dam in British Columbia.

    I know the Cleveland Dam in North Vancouver doesn’t generate any power at all.

  10. UNBC to Use Renewable Energy to Heat Campus

    By wgb@cwilson.com (Warren Brazier) on waste to energy

    The University of Northern British Columbia, located in Prince George, BC has selected Vancouver based, Nexterra Energy Corp. to supply and install a turnkey biomass gasification system to heat UNBC’s campus and anchor its new Northern Bioenergy Innovation Centre.

    According to the press release issued last week, Nexterra’s system is part of a $14.8 million bioenergy program that includes upgraded road and utility infrastructure, a new building and a “living laboratory” for bioenergy research and development. The Nexterra gasification system will convert locally-sourced wood residue into clean-burning “syngas” that will displace up to 85% of the natural gas currently used to heat the campus. The project, which is jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments, is expected to begin in June 2009. It will be complete by mid 2010 and construction will support approximately 150 jobs.

  11. Sunday, June 28, 2009
    Visualizing wind farms for Cambridge University

    I thought it would be a fun exercise to see, on a map, whether we could imagine powering the University of Cambridge from local wind turbines. The University’s average electricity consumption is 11.4 MW, and its gas and oil consumption is 8.7 MW. (That’s the University departments and offices only, not the colleges.) If we switched our heating over to heat pumps and insulated all the buildings, maybe the total consumption could be covered by 16 MW of electricity. Probably about 72 MW of wind capacity would be required to produce 16 MW on average. That’s about 36 big wind turbines of the standard 2-MW size in the photo above, which shows Red Tile wind farm.

  12. UBC project to generate clean energy and new knowledge

    A first-of-its-kind bioenergy project at the University of British Columbia will generate enough clean electricity to power 1,500 homes, reduce the university’s natural gas consumption by up to12 per cent and eliminate up to 4,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year – the equivalent of taking 1,100 cars off the road.

    Announced today by Premier Gordon Campbell and UBC President Prof. Stephen Toope, the UBC Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Project is a partnership with Vancouver-based Nexterra Systems Corp. and GE Water & Power. It will be the first North American demonstration of a biomass-fueled heat-and-power generation system.

    “British Columbia has enormous clean energy potential and together with industry, we are putting it to work for our economy, generating new jobs and new wealth for B.C. communities, while lowering greenhouse gas emissions within and beyond our borders,” said Premier Campbell at the announcement today kicking off Clean Energy Day.

    “This project demonstrates UBC’s leadership in sustainability and our concept of the campus as a living laboratory,” said Prof. Toope. “This groundbreaking partnership is helping UBC achieve its sustainability goals through the convergence of research, operations and industry in the bioenergy sphere.”

    The $26-million project will install a biomass gasification system at UBC’s Vancouver campus that will operate in co-generation mode for electric power production and thermal mode to produce steam. It will produce two megawatts of cost-effective clean electricity – up to six per cent of the campus’s average electrical demand in co-generation mode using a GE Jenbacher gas engine to produce electric power – and up to 25 per cent of campus’s base requirement for steam in thermal mode. It will also provide research and learning opportunities for faculty and students, yield valuable new knowledge in the clean energy sector and inform new global standards for bioenergy system performance.

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