Swarthmore Makes Ambitious Commitment to Wind Power

by Rachel Ackoff '07 and Alisa Giardinelli

During its recent Board of Managers annual budget review meeting, Swarthmore College committed to purchase 35 percent of its total energy use from wind power sources. Long a supporter of renewable energy, the College has stepped up to become the Pennsylvania institution of higher education purchasing the largest percentage of its power from renewable sources. Students at Swarthmore College said that they "hope to inspire other universities and state, local, and national governments by demonstrating that solutions to global warming are within reach."

"We are very pleased that we have been able to increase the College's energy mix derived from wind power from 19 to 35 percent," said Swarthmore College President Alfred H. Bloom. "This goal was conscientiously sought by student groups for several years and we are very proud to realize it."

Above, students at a rally organized by Earthlust last semester urged the administration to increase the percentage of its power derived from wind.

Earthlust,  the Swarthmore student environmental group, launched a campaign to bring renewable energy to campus in 1997. While the college originally purchased 2 percent of its total energy from wind power, this percentage rose to 8.5 percent in 2005 due to continued student involvement. Members of Earthlust celebrate this latest commitment as an unprecedented leap forward yet hope to achieve a 100 percent renewable energy purchase in the future.

"We are thrilled by this victory; it is every thing we asked for at this point. However, we know, and the administration knows, that it's only one step forward on a path towards total carbon neutrality," said senior Rachel Ackoff, a member of Earthlust.

The student-run campaign for renewable energy at Swarthmore is part of the Campus Climate Challenge, an international project of more than 30 leading youth organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada. The Challenge is building a generation-wide movement to stop global warming by reducing pollution from high schools and colleges to zero.

"By transforming their campus into a model of sustainability, students at Swarthmore College are leading a vibrant, national student movement towards a clean energy future," said Jared Duval, National Director of the Sierra Student Coalition, the student-run arm of the Sierra Club.

Swarthmore's decision comes as Governor Ed Rendell is preparing to release, in the next 60 days, a comprehensive plan to make Pennsylvania a leader in addressing climate change. Scientists have called on the country to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by the year 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, and the students hope that Governor Rendell will incorporate these reductions into his plan.

"Our victory shows that while there has been a lack of political will among our national leaders to adequately address global warming, institutions of higher learning, followed by state and local governments, can lead the way towards a clean energy future," said sophomore Marc Engel.