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a picture of several students huddled around Dartmouth's iconic smokestack, extending far into the sky

This term, I've been taking a class called Transforming the Energy System: Keeping the Lights on While Saving the Planet. It's an awesome class (my favorite so far) about renewable energy, climate change policy, and the overall global energy transition, with a focus on Dartmouth's energy transition.

I've been involved with energy here at Dartmouth as a First-Year Fellow, at the Irving Institute, and most recently through my Transforming Energy Systems (EARS 21) course. Transforming Energy Systems is an awesome class because classes are about 50% lectures and 50% labs, which usually involve field trips and activities outside of the classroom around Dartmouth! Here are some cool things we've been doing this term:

Dartmouth Chilled Water Plant Tour:

I toured Dartmouth's chilled water plants a few weeks ago with my class. These plants provide chilled water to several campus buildings through an underground chilled water distribution system. This trip was one of the labs for my Energy Systems course: taking notes on Dartmouth's heating and cooling systems and writing about it in our lab handouts. It was a great way to learn about energy and how it works in the real world—in this case, on our campus! Take a look at some pictures below!

a picture of several students huddled in a basement of Dartmouth's Water chilling plant, tubing all over the room, while a tour guide explains what they're looking at
Here's a picture of my class touring Dartmouth's Chilled Water Plant. Scott Hening (Energy Program Manager at Dartmouth) explains how the system works.

Dartmouth Heating Plant and Steam Tunnels Tour:

Although this wasn't through my Transforming Energy Systems class, my friend Xavier and I recently took a tour of Dartmouth's centrally-located heating plant and underground steam tunnels. The tour was through the Dartmouth Energy Alliance, a club I've recently become involved with that's focused on helping students broaden their understanding of the energy sector and climate change.

Dartmouth's campus is heated through the Dartmouth Heating Plant, most recognizable through the tall smoke stack you can spot from some spots on campus. The plant was started in 1898, making it the oldest continuously operating co-generational (meaning it produces heat and energy) plant in the country. Just a few days ago, I got to tour it!

a picture of the tour guide pointing towards one of dartmouth's combustion oil boilers, while a student watches from a safe distance.
Here's a picture of Abbe Bjorklund (Director of Engineering and Utilities at Dartmouth) explaining to my friend Xavier how the combustion boiler system works.

The plant itself provides up to forty percent of the campus' electricity during the winter months, operating 24 hours a day all year round. We got to see the plant's boilers and turbine generators on the tour, as well as the steam tunnels that run underneath campus, carrying heat to the majority of our buildings here at Dartmouth.

In my Transforming Energy Systems class, we've been learning a lot about Dartmouth's future in energy and sustainability. In the coming years, Dartmouth will be transitioning away from these standard heating methods we've used for so long. Instead, Dartmouth will transition from the current steam system to a low-temperature hot water system involving geothermal technology. In other words, Dartmouth will move to a more renewable electric-driven system instead of a combustion-driven one.

a long corridor with steam pipes running along the sides of the tunnel, with students wearing green safety helmets walking down it.
Here's a picture of the steam tunnels we toured, hidden underground beneath campus and heating our buildings!

I've loved my Transforming Energy Systems class so far! I've learned a lot about renewable energy and climate change, as well as what that looks like for the future of sustainability at Dartmouth. If you come to Dartmouth, I certainly recommend this class! I hope this blog post shows you more about Dartmouth's exciting courses and gives you some information about energy and sustainability at Dartmouth!

Read more about sustainability at Dartmouth and Dartmouth's energy future here:


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