Despite the tough economic climate, NESCAC colleges continue to move toward various sustainability goals by depending on environmental grants.

According to Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Katy Longley, the College critically assesses energy conservation project costs before implementation occurs.

"We're thinking about grant funding before we start our projects," said Longley.

After securing a $50,000 competitive grant from the Efficiency of Maine Trust to install new solar panels on top of Thorne Dining Hall, the College completed the second phase of the construction process over Winter Break. Approximately 50 percent of Thorne's hot water will be heated by solar power with the new installation.

In the past three years, the College has received grants through the Efficiency Maine Business, Home Energy Savings and Large Commercial Grant programs. The College used these grants to install the solar panels at Thorne Hall, as well as for a cogeneration project at the Central Heating Plant, lighting upgrades and heating and cooling equipment.

"Since January 2008, the College has received approximately $580,000 through Efficiency Maine programs," wrote Director of Finance and Campus Services Delwin Wilson in an e-mail to the Orient.

Most notably, the College secured a $400,000 grant through the Large Commercial Grant program to implement a boiler replacement and cogeneration project that will produce approximately 1.65 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually. The boiler accounts for 10 percent of all electricity on campus.

The project, which is expected to be completed during the summer of 2011, has a total price tag of $3.4 million, $3 million of which is funded by the College.

With numerous sustainability projects in recent years, Bowdoin has been keeping pace with the efforts of peer schools around the NESCAC.

To fund its renewable energy projects, Middlebury depends on grants from the Vermont State Department of Public Service, the Vermont State Clean Energy Development Fund and various other foundations.

"We've been a little more active in pursuing these grants," said Jack Byrne, Director of Sustainability Integration at Middlebury. "I think with the recession and then the availability of federal stimulus money, we've also been looking for and pursuing any opportunities there that would help fund projects."

Middlebury recently constructed a small wind turbine that provides power to its recycling center, a visible example of its commitment to sustainability. The $45,000 project was funded as part of a "fifty-fifty cost partnership" between Middlebury and the Vermont State Department of Public Service.

Middlebury College also partnered with the town of Middlebury to "look at the feasibility of establishing mini-biomass districts throughout the town," said Byrne. "We received $225,000 in funding to do that study from the Biomass Energy Resource Center, which is a national center [based in Vermont]."

Closer to home, Colby College recently secured a $750,000 grant from the Efficiency of Maine Trust for its Biomass Expansion Project.

"We have also been proactive in looking for energy savings grants," wrote the Director of Physical Plant at Colby Patricia Murphy in an e-mail to the Orient. "Our efforts to get [grants] revolve more around what projects we need to do and not around the economy. The efforts have remained unchanged."

Murphy wrote that Colby received approximately six to eight smaller grants "for construction projects for lighting retrofits, refrigeration, HVAC upgrades and controls" from the Efficiency of Maine Trust.

"We will continue to seek out grants to help fund projects, including environmental projects," Murphy added.

Bowdoin is looking to continue cost-efficient, energy-saving improvements. The College currently has "rebate qualifying projects planned or underway in Lancaster Lounge, Hatch Science Library and Sargent Gym, and [is] exploring a new retro-commissioning program for Druckenmiller Hall," wrote Wilson.

Longley also reported that that the College will be looking to improve the energy efficiency of Druckenmiller Hall.

Successfully securing environmental grants is all the more important because the College has exhausted other sources of funding. For instance, Longley noted that the College has already spent all the funding it received as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Without adequate funding, the College could not undertake its planned energy-saving improvments.

"We might not otherwise do these projects without the grant funding," Longley said.