Yale Awards Microloans to Three Campus Sustainability Projects

October 19, 2011

Thin-film photovoltaic arrays, consumer-level smart grid technology and high-efficiency lighting installations are features of the three winning projects to be supported by the Yale Sustainability Microloan Fund in the coming year. The fund provides small loans for projects with short payback periods to promote creative ideas that make Yale a more environmentally and financially sustainable place.

The three projects that received funding are:

The Power of Social Norms to Reduce Energy Consumption focuses on reducing energy use in the dormitories at the Yale Divinity School. Students will be provided with modlets which plug into conventional outlets and measure the energy consumption of household appliances and other electronics including microwaves, televisions, computers and refrigerators. The modlets can then be programmed to cut the power to these items when they are not being used, significantly reducing the “vampire” energy consumed when devices are in standby mode. In addition, several social messaging techniques aimed at encouraging behaviors that reduce overall energy use will be tested and measured via the modlets, resulting in reduced emissions and cost savings.

The Peabody Museum Store Lighting System Retrofit will replace several outdated, energy-intensive lighting systems with highly efficient technologies, some of which have never before been installed at Yale. Older halogen systems that waste energy in the form of heat and require frequent light bulb replacement will be exchanged for durable, efficient fiber-optic and LED systems. These upgrades will provide better visibility, produce less heat and greatly reduce energy use. In addition, new sun screens will prevent overheating and provide an attractive new advertising opportunity. The project is expected to significantly reduce the energy used for lighting and air conditioning in the Museum Store while stimulating higher sales through a more comfortable customer experience.

Project Bright was started by an undergraduate student to support the development of thin-film solar energy installations around campus. The project involves a student-led partnership with the university’s facilities department to build solar arrays on the roofs of Yale buildings, reducing the need for nonrenewable fuels purchased from external sources. Yale’s Sustainability Strategic Plan commits the university to increase its use of renewable energy to 25 percent of its total energy portfolio by 2020.

An additional upside to this project came in the form of applicants who opted not to proceed to the second application round. “You might say that some of the projects we didn’t fund were success stories equal to the ones that we did,” said Committee Chair Melissa Goodall. “About half our applicants realized that their projects were so financially viable that they didn’t really need loan funding – they just committed to doing them.”

The next Microloan Fund application round will take place in fall 2011. Potential applicants can find more information at http://sustainabity.yale.edu/microloan