Campus Power Plants and Open Online Education

How do you learn about where your campus electricity and heat comes from?

January 28, 2015
What do you know about where the electricity and heat comes from on your campus? How much thought do you give to the electrons that power your wireless network and your workstations? Ever stop to think about what life would be like in your offices and classrooms without heat and light?
The 1/17  issue of The Economist has a great special report on global changes in energy production and consumption. One of the articles described the UC San Diego (UCSD) power plant, which in 2001 changed from a single use heating plant to a cogeneration system. Today, UCSD produces 92% of the campus’ electricity while heating and cooling 450 buildings. UCSD’s 30MW gas cogeneration plant complemented by 3MW from solar power and 3MW from a gas-powered fuel cell. 
Over the past few months I’ve learned more about my own school's power plant while watching our first DartmouthX open online course being created. The course, Introduction to Environmental Science - DART.ENVS.01.X, is a wide ranging course that happens to include a lesson in which professor Andy Friedland does a walk through of the Dartmouth Power Plant.  
Andy connects the system of how fuel oil is burned to create steam which makes electricity (about 40% of the College’s needs) and heat and hot water, with the underlying scientific principals that govern the process. If you have not yet signed up for DART.ENVS.01.X on the edX platform you should go ahead, as the course starts on 2/3. (You can even start interacting with fellow learners today, as the team kicked off a Pre-Course Week 0 that is going on now). 
There is something so cool about leveraging the local campus infrastructure, particularly infrastructure that most people don't think about, to create learning opportunities.
Do you know of other examples of open online courses where I can learn about campus infrastructure?   
What do you think we can do for our students to help them understand where the electricity and heat that they use comes from?
Where does your campus electricity and heat come from?


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