Critics say utility policies hampering sustainability efforts at Luther College


Nick Fetty | June 26, 2014
A wind turbine near the Luther College campus. Photo by Ellen Macdonald; Flickr
A wind turbine near the Luther College campus.
Photo by Ellen Macdonald; Flickr

Officials at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa have proposed a 1.4 MW gas turbine project which could produce half the electricity used on campus each year but current utility rates and policies make this project not feasible.

The project could also provide heat for the campus through a process known as cogeneration. However, officials with the school have determined this project would not be feasible based on current rates that Alliant Energy charges for sporadic use of grid power or “the standby rate.”

Luther College consulted the Energy Resources Center at the University of Illinois-Chicago to conduct a feasibility study. The study found that the project would take 55 years to pay for itself based on Alliant Energy’s rates compared to the 15 years it would take based on rates through MidAmerican Energy.

The college currently has numerous sustainability measures such as utilizing wind and solar power as well as recycling and composting. A report by the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment states that Luther College has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent since 2003-2004 and Luther was one of five Iowa institutions named as top green schools in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges.

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