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12 colleges invest $2.3M in renewable energy projects

From left: EAA Executive Director Luis Bernal, EAA Deputy Director Juan Carlos Díaz, Polytechnic University vice president Ernesto Vázquez, Polytechnic President Ernesto Vázquez-Barquet and Sen. Larry Seilhammer inspect the Polytechnic’s rooftop solar panel project.

A dozen public and private universities in Puerto Rico have invested a combined $2.3 million in energy conservation and renewable energy projects to reduce their operating costs and diversify their energy production while contributing to the environment, the Energy Affairs Administration Executive Director Luis Bernal said Wednesday during a press conference at the Polytechnic University.

Of the total invested to install solar energy systems, replace air conditioning equipment and improve lighting technology, $1.7 million came from the government, through the local Green Energy Fund and grants from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, agency officials said.

The Polytechnic University in Hato Rey tops the list of 12 local universities that have received government funds for its green energy projects. Through a $1 million investment, the Polytechnic developed a solar energy project consisting of 360 solar panels, and replaced its air conditioning system with high efficiency equipment.

In addition to the Polytechnic, the Pontifical Catholic University in Ponce, the Inter American University’s School of Aviation, and the University of Puerto Rico’s Aguadilla, Arecibo, Cayey, Ponce, Bayamón, Humacao, Medical Sciences, Río Piedras and Utuado campuses developed solar energy and energy conservation projects of their own. Together, these projects represent annual savings of approximately $500,000.

“We’re extremely proud of facilitating investment for renewable energy and energy conservation projects in local higher education institutions. Several months ago, we announced an important investment in the public university system, alongside [UPR President] Miguel Muñoz. Today, three important private universities join us; three institutions that educate our future engineers and architects,” said Bernal, flanked by Polytechnic University Ernesto Vázquez-Barquet and Sen. Larry Seillhamer, who chairs the Senate’s Urbanism and Infrastructure Committee.

For the Hato Rey university, this is the most recent step in its energy conservation and resources reutilization strategy. The first phase of the plan, established in 2007, included energy conservation training and awareness sessions for the university staff. The second phase consisted in installing controls to avoid energy waste, Vázquez-Barquet said.

“In its 46-year history, the Polytechnic University has focused on preparing young professionals in the most advanced technologies and sciences, and we have always been committed to improving Puerto Rico’s quality of life,” Vázquez-Barquet said. “Today, we reaffirm this commitment by encouraging more and better ideas for sustainability, including renewable energy.”

The school is already reaping the benefits of the energy conservation measures implemented. In September 2011, the month when the institution’s energy consumption spikes, the Polytechnic saw a 27 percent drop in its usage, compared with the same month in 2010. With the new solar energy project, the school expects an additional 30 percent reduction.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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