My Turn: Harvard’s energy facility combatting global climate change

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Published: 2/20/2022 8:06:51 PM
Modified: 2/20/2022 8:06:31 PM

This is a commentary on the Feb. 9 letter published in the Recorder, “Do as I say, not what I do.” The gist of that letter was that “intellectual elites” at Harvard are mistakenly installing a fossil-fuel-based power plant instead of solar panels.

Harvard University’s District Energy Facility (DEF) is an important step toward curbing global climate change. It’s designed to adapt to emerging sources of energy that are expected to replace high-carbon-based fuels. It is expected to be fossil fuel-neutral by 2026 (burning many kinds of fuel in addition to natural gas) and fossil-fuel-free by 2050.

Conventional gas-fired power plants use roughly a quarter of the heat from the burned gas to generate electricity; the remaining three quarters of that heat is wasted. This combined heat and power system captures that “waste heat” to also generate hot water and chilled water, wasting much less of the original heat.

As noted above, the DEF’s major innovation is its ability to use varied types of fuels. A possible fuel could be combining it with solar panels. Hydrogen manufactured by electricity from solar panels could be injecting into natural gas. Most of the energy could come from solar-generated hydrogen.

As to “intellectual elites”: That is a dangerous misnomer designed to undermine science, global climate change and political discourse. By definition, intellectuals are “those with the ability to think and reason.” That is clearly not something to distain! These DEF scientists and engineers used their intellect to combine complex scientific and engineering principles to combat global climate change. As to “elite,” that refers to people from families of influence or privilege. Most of the people that designed the DEF did not come from elite families and everyone on this project earned their positions with intelligence, perseverance, and hard work, regardless of their family origins.

R. Kent Koeninger is a global climate change consultant with the The Economic Utility Group.


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