Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 73.13
Liaison Bridget Flynn
Submission Date March 9, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Oberlin College
IC-2: Operational Characteristics

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete N/A
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Endowment size:
6613000 US/Canadian $

Total campus area:
614 Acres

IECC climate region:

Small town

Gross floor area of building space:
2670000 Gross Square Feet

Conditioned floor area:
1705268 Square Feet

Floor area of laboratory space:
56287 Square Feet

Floor area of healthcare space:
3140 Square Feet

Floor area of other energy intensive space:
76920 Square Feet

Floor area of residential space:
967154 Square Feet

Electricity use by source::
Percentage of total electricity use (0-100)
Biomass 0
Coal ---
Geothermal 0
Hydro ---
Natural gas ---
Nuclear ---
Solar photovoltaic 12
Wind ---
Other (please specify and explain below) ---

A brief description of other sources of electricity not specified above:

Energy used for heating buildings, by source::
Percentage of total energy used to heat buildings (0-100)
Biomass 0
Coal 85
Electricity 0
Fuel oil 0
Geothermal 3
Natural gas 11
Other (please specify and explain below) ---

A brief description of other sources of building heating not specified above:

Oberlin College has shifted from being almost entirely reliant on fossil fuels for its energy to incorporating more renewable sources. From the 1940s until 2014 the College was heated primarily by burning coal. As part of the College’s carbon neutrality efforts, the central heating plant is being converted from coal to natural gas as a transition and back-up fuel for the immediate future. Burning natural gas creates far less CO2 than coal -- approximately 40% to 50% less, and does not create particulates, ash, or some other airborne emissions like mercury . Natural gas can also be turned on and off quickly in response to changing weather conditions, unlike coal. However, despite its benefits, natural gas is still a fossil fuel that emits carbon when burned. There are also serious environmental and health concerns associated with some natural gas extraction practices currently in use. Fugitive methane emissions during the extraction process and a lack of adequate regulations make the actual level of greenhouse gas emissions associated with natural gas uncertain. Because of these concerns, the College will seek to minimize natural gas use as quickly as possible. The “energy zones” will lessen demands on the central heating plant. The energy zones will take advantage of the best suited renewable and advanced energy for the unique set of buildings associated with a given zone. Such technologies might include electric compressor pumps, like air-to-air, variable refrigerant flow (VRF), and ground-source (geothermal) heat pumps. More on this plan can be found in the Climate Action Plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.

The potential move to electric compressor pumps is especially appropriate given that Oberlin Municipal Light and Power Services (OMLPS), Oberlin College’s municipal electricity provider, has secured contracts to provide 90% renewable electricity by 2015. In addition, Oberlin College produces electricity via photovoltaics. The Adam Joseph Lewis Center (AJLC) rooftop and parking pavilion are equipped with solar panels to provide energy for that building. In 2012, Oberlin College contracted with SPG Solar and Spear Point Energy to install a 2.27 mega-watt (MW) solar array past the north athletic fields on campus property. This solar array was projected to produce approximately 3,000,000 kWh per year (approximately 12% of the College’s current electricity needs), and has surpassed these expectations in the first year. Between the green energy from OMLPS and the solar array, Oberlin College’s electricity portfolio will be nearly 100% renewable by 2015.

*Total endowed funds figure is pulled from June 30, 2012.

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