The conservation of resources is the heart of any sustainability plan. Energy resources represent a significant part of the heat plant budget and the bulk of the College's carbon contribution to the atmosphere. Better than 99% of the Colleges' energy comes through the Heat Plant which is found on the southwestern side of the campus. Learn more about how we manage energy.

The Heat Plant boilers provide steam to all of the major buildings on campus and a number of the smaller buildings. Although we have the ability to burn #6-0.5% sulfur oil or natural gas we choose to burn natural gas as it is significantly cleaner burning. We hold the fuel oil in reserve in the event that our natural gas supply is interrupted. We average about a 1,000,000 therms of fuel in a year which in real terms represents one hundred million cubic feet of natural gas or an equivalent of 660,000 gallons of fuel oil.

Electricity comes into the campus on a 33kVa line and is stepped down to 4,160V for distribution through the Campus. A series of smaller transformers step down the voltage to usable levels in each building. We average about 14,500,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. A large home probably uses less than 30,000 kWh so you could say the college uses enough electricity to power a small community of five hundred homes. Swarthmore College has purchased Renewable Energy Credits (REC's) in the form of wind power since 1999. We have gradually increased that committment over the last twelve years and this year signed a contract to achieve 100% REC's to offset our greenhouse gas emissions from electricity use. We have also partnered with the Borough of Swarthmore to be recognized as a Green Power Community and are listed as a leader in the Green Power Partnership sponsored by the EPA.

The charts below illustrate the trends of fuel and electricity used at the college and the relative cost of that use. The "Heat Plant Therms In-Put" chart illustrates the Btu in-put compared against the cost of that fuel and the heating degree day pattern over a ten year period. A therm is a unit of heat equal to 100,000 Btu's. Read more information on fuels.

The "Cost and kWh" chart illustrates our electric use profile. A steady increase over a seventeen year period has been followed with a five year period of declining kWh needs. We expect to see further reductions in energy use as we find additional retrofit opportunities. Learn more about our electric use profile.

It is gratifying to see that even with the growth of the campus we have managed to not only hold the line on energy, but actually reduce our use in the last five years. We do this through an aggressive energy management program and a sophisticated Siemens building management system.

Download a .pdf copy of either chart by clicking on the chart

Chart of Fuel Cost versus Therms in put

Cost and kilowatt hour comparison chart