Advantages to Wind Power

  • Wind power has been used for the last few hundred years. But in the last couple decades a new use for wind has been discovered.
  • The energy from the turbines is then transformed into electrical energy. This form of energy can power a city the size of San Francisco every year.
  •  It’s one of the most environmentally friendly energy sources in the world.
  • The great thing about wind energy is that there is no pollution to air, water or soil.
  • Another great thing is that wind is renewable. It never runs out so you’ll always have an energy source. Since nobody owns the wind, this form of energy does not fluctuate in price like natural gas prices do.

Three main reasons people are hesitant to the use of wind power:

  • Wind power plants can be seen from far distances away. In this case, one may not want to live in the area where you can see the wind turbines.
  • Noise levels: Wind turbine technology has improved so dramatically over the last two decades that you can barely hair the turbines over the normal sounds of nature.
  • Wildlife: When building these plants, one must make sure that the wildlife will not be harmed do to the power plants.
    • In California they noticed that birds would perch on top of the poles attached to the turbine so they’d get killed once it started moving. To fix this problem, California installed solid poles so that the birds couldn’t perch on them.

Solar Power:

  • The Sun is a great source to use for alternative energy. 
  • To obtain energy from the sun photovoltaic cells, are commonly used to produce electricity.  These panels need to be facing south in the northern Hemisphere for the most efficient use
  • There are solar panels that collect the energy, a charge control, battery, and inverter. 
  • When using PV cells to produce electricity a person must remember that these cells can only run on low voltage.  These panels produce between 6 to 24 volts. 
  • To get an idea of how much energy and electricity can be produced from PV cells, one hour of full sun produces 1000 Wh per m (sq.)= 1 KWh per m (sq)

All information from:

Other Solar Uses

            After Elon University’s solar project has seen the success that we believe it will display, the administration should begin to pursue other uses for solar panels.  When the project has been in place for two to five years, the return on the investment will hopefully be seen.  As new buildings are fit with more solar panels, the amount of energy being harnessed will increase.  With the eventual addition of solar paneling into construction contracts, any new buildings built on this campus will be built with paneling.  This will create a situation where new possibilities for solar paneling usage could be pursued.

            Solar water heating is another possible use for solar paneling.  Solar water heat uses the panels to attract the sun; the sun’s rays are then used to heat the water that travels through glass panels on the roof.  Solar water heating is a great way to reduce gas and electric bills related to heating.  The pipes that contain the water are painted black to add to their effectiveness. 

            As the University community becomes more aware of alternative energy sources and their uses, continued efforts will be made to develop new technologies.  Since it has been predetermined that this process is over a period of time, this later step will come years down the line.  Benefits of alternative energy sources include financial savings.  Nothing speaks more clearly to an educational institution then monetary savings.  Over time, more and more institutions will begin to adopt these practices helping to make new forms of solar technology available, and the prices of current technology more affordable.


What is Biogas and How is it Produced?

  • In the absence of oxygen, anaerobic bacteria break down organic waste and produce biogas (methane) as a waste product.
  • The organic material must go into an anaerobic digester (AD)
    • In order to maximize the biogas production, temperature must remain consistent
  • Then, volatile solids in the animal waste are converted into fatty acids by anaerobic bacteria
  • Next, the fatty acid is converted into biogas by another, more specific type of bacteria  
  • The biogas produced contains 50-80% methane and 20-50% carbon dioxide, with smaller levels of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen sulfide and water vapor
  • The remaining material in the AD is called effluent, a nutrient rich soil fertilizer

Benefits of Biogas:

  • Animal wastes are eliminated from accumulating on fields
  • Reduction of odors
  • Nutrients are recycled by using effluent as a cost-effective fertilizer
  • Biogas eliminates the release of methane into the atmosphere, lowering the effect methane has on the ozone layer, since it is a greenhouse gas.
  • Reduces the possibilities of groundwater and surface water contamination
  • Increases sanitation levels in animals’ living spaces
  • Gives greater control of temperature within living conditions of animals since methane produced in the natural decomposition of animal wastes produces excess heat
  • Biogas can be used for general heating, cooling, cooking, mechanical and electrical power but its most effective uses are on the farms it was produced

Drawbacks to Biogas:

  • Traces of pesticides can sometimes be found in the effluent removed from the anaerobic digesters
  • It is not useful for all farms, especially those on the small scale
  • Biogas produces components other than methane that are harmful to humans and the environment when anaerobic digesters are not properly maintained.
  • Methane is highly volatile and dangerous when not monitored efficiently

Useful Biogas Resources:

Anaerobic Digestion of Animal Wastes: Factors to Consider-- Publication from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

Methane (Biogas) from Anaerobic Digesters – Publication from the US Department of Energy- Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy


Geothermal Energy

About it:

  • This type of energy is made up of using the earth’s heat for direct use in electricity and/or heating and cooling.
  • Basically, 47% of the sun’s heat which reaches are planet is absorbed into the earth (
  • In finding a way t use that energy instead of using fossil fuels, we can lower costs for ourselves, as well as help save the environment

How It Works

  • In order to get to the geothermal energy, drilling – like oil drilling – is required
  • Not all geothermal resources have to be located miles underneath the earth’s surface; shallow places, reservoirs, or deep wells can be used to tap stream or hot water
  • This steam is then brought to the surface and used in many different ways to power, heat, and cool

Where It’s Used:

  • Currently this form of alternative energy is being used in power plants and mostly out west in buildings, towns and homes that use geothermal heater pumps
  • States like Hawaii and Alaska have some cities that “pipe the hot water under roads and sidewalks to melt snow. District heating applications use networks of piped hot water to heat buildings in the whole communities”
  • In cities like Louisville, KY heating pumps capture energy from shallow ground to heat and cool buildings
  • Since just below the earth’s surface stays at a pretty constant 50 – 60 degrees, pipes buried under the building simply go through an exchanger pulling the warmer air out of the ground. In the summer the opposite occurs and the heat from the house is pushed through the exchanger into the ground. “Heat removed during the summer can be used as no-cost energy to heat water” (


        Geothermal energy has been something that has been researched and continually developed since the early 1900’s, and it’s shocking that it’s not more readily used available today.

Example of College Use:

  • A university in Connecticut has begun to take part in the use of geothermal heating pump, along with many other environmental changes they have made. Eastern Connecticut State university has implemented a system where “electric resistance hear was removed and replaced with a two – pipe fan coil system, with the heating and cooling water generated in the geothermal heat pump system” this has decreased their costs from $10,000.00 to $72,000.



What is Biodiesel?

  • An Alternative, biodegradable fuel that comes from renewable resources containing no petroleum
  • Biodiesel is primarily taken from soybeans or recycled cooking oil
  • It is made from a process known as transesterification where glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil. After this process is complete methyl esters and glycerin is left behind, the methyl esters are the biodiesel.

Why Should We Use Biodiesel?

        Biodiesel is better for the environment because it is made from renewable resources and gives off fewer emissions than petroleum diesel.

  • It can also cut off our dependency to foreign oil, contributing to our own economy

Who Uses Biodiesel?

  • Biodiesel can be used in all forms of road transportation. It can be found in government fleets; cities in Iowa, Ohio, and Missouri have begun to use biodiesel for their mass transit; passenger cars and trucks; and cities in the school districts of New Jersey, Illinois, Nevada, and Virginia are using biodiesel in the buses. California tested out using biodiesel in electrical generators and was successful. Industries such as mining, marine, and farming have also begun using biodiesel.

What Colleges and Universities Use Biodiesel?

  • With the growing popularity of biodiesel, many colleges have begun researching the benefits of biodiesel. At Duke University, the student organization, the Environmental Alliance received a $30,000 grant to implement the use of biodiesel. Now all of their buses run on 20% blend of biodiesel called B20. 120 of NC State’s Buses and equipment run on B20 as well. Other schools throughout the United States also are researching and using biodiesel, check out their websites:
  • Incorporate a class into the Environmental Science program, teaching about alternative energy & observing the solar panels:

    • Unity College in Maine is an environmental college that has incorporated the concept of sustainability into their everyday lives and curriculum.  The students at Unity College have a vast knowledge of using alternative energy, some examples of their work are: in 2002 Unity College committed to getting 60% of their electricity from renewable resources, in 2004 a new boiler replaced their old one saving the college thousands of dollars, in 2004 student constructed and demonstrated a wind turbine.  Also, in 2004 a Human Ecology and sustainability minor was passed to further Unity College’s student’s knowledge of how to live sustainably.  The school also boasted using solar panels; they have recently been retired due to historical significance.  The school is hoping to raise money to install pv cells and further their undergraduate programs.  The solar panels, now in storage have been used for undergraduate study.

    For more information about Unity College’s sustainability projects visit:

    For more information about Unity College’s curriculum visit:

    • The solar center at NCState is a home that is run entirely off solar power and alternative energy.  The house uses solar panels, pv cells, a geothermal power for heating and cooling.  Not only showing how a home can be run almost entirely off the Earth, the solar center makes itself available for research and has regularly found itself the topic in graduate studies.  In addition to NCState building the solar center, they have also aided Catawaba College in Salisbury, NC with installing pv cells, along with numerous high schools and community buildings in North Carolina.

    For more information about the NCState’s Solar Center visit:

    • In addition to making buildings and their campus more green, Duke University is also looking into incorporating sustainability into their curriculum.  The Duke University Green Initiative is currently researching the possibility of creating a Sustainability Certificate program as well as other undergraduate classes in collaboration.

    For more information about Duke University’s Green Initiative visit:

  • Michigan Tech University
  • Other schools in the region have already implemented future sustainable development plans.  The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program sets standards for efficient energy use and sustainable development.  At Duke University all construction post 2002 must meet at least the lowest standards for LEED certification.  All renovations must also meet LEED certification standards.  At UNC a LEED checklist was designed specifically for their campus.  For all future development the UNC LEED checklist must be submitted and meet.  At NC State buildings are certified as energy efficient based on standards specific to the North Carolina area based on environmental conditions present. 


    By following guidelines from these three schools Elon could implement their own plan for future energy efficient.  While our primary focus is on alternative energy use the addition of sustainable development would not only save Elon money but also protect our natural environment through clean energy production. 




Where can I Get biodiesel?

  • You can get biodiesel almost anywhere. High quality is available in all fifty states. In addition to that, there are several suppliers to ship anywhere in the United States.

In addition to the above mentioned websites, all other information cam from

The official Website of the Nation Biodiesel Board

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion

What is Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion?

  • An energy technology which converts the ocean’s natural thermal gradient to electrical power
  • Anywhere in the ocean that contains a temperature difference of about 20 degrees Celsius has the potential to produce considerable amounts of power.

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