The University of Massachusetts Amherst today unveiled UMass Carbon Zero — an ambitious vision to limit the dangers of climate change and power the commonwealth’s 1,500-acre flagship campus with 100 percent renewable energy by approximately 2032.
The university is at the vanguard of a big idea, said Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, aspiring to pilot a solution for Massachusetts as it addresses the climate crisis. “Our pioneering work on this complex, large-scale undertaking will have ramifications far beyond campus,” Subbaswamy said. “UMass Amherst will be a leader of carbon mitigation efforts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts while educating the next generation of leaders in sustainability. UMass Carbon Zero will serve as a model for other large research universities as they embark upon their own energy transitions.” Full details of the path to carbon zero can be found at www.umass.edu/carbon-neutrality.
UMass Amherst plans to develop a diverse portfolio of university and external funding to pay for UMass Carbon Zero infrastructure improvements and Living Lab research and teaching through federal, state, corporate and philanthropic sources, as well as energy- and decarbonization-related funding. The university is undertaking an in-depth financial assessment of the vision. Preliminary estimates indicate an investment of at least $500 million will be required.
Planning for UMass Carbon Zero has been in the works for two years, building upon the university’s many achievements in green energy and sustainability. The highest-impact component of the transition will be a large-scale conversion of the campus heating and energy infrastructure. The university plans to transition from fossil fuel-based steam and electricity production to a modern, low-temperature hot water heating system paired with geothermal heating and cooling, and to use a combination of on-site battery-stored solar energy and purchased energy from the rapidly greening electrical grid. As the first step in this major undertaking, UMass will soon test the geothermal capacity of selected campus properties, after which it will undertake a far-reaching proof-of-concept project involving about 40 campus buildings from across construction eras with different HVAC systems.