Alamo Colleges: District

Alamo Colleges District (ACD) is training a green workforce with sustainability-related courses such as Environmental Science Lectures, Wind Power Generation, Wind Turbine Troubleshooting, Photovoltaics Technical Sales and Solar Photovoltaics Systems, and Wastewater Minimization and Pollution Prevention and Waste Water Treatment. These courses are provided toward accredited certificates and degrees such has Associate of Science, with optional electives in Environmental Science, Power Generation and Alternative Energy and Water Resource Science.

Sustainability is also being incorporated into class lectures with the Greening the Curriculum initiative, where the Environmental Sustainability Council documents how faculty are integrating sustainability into their classes, and encourages to enhance the educational experience of students by supporting the use of the sustainable purchasing website or making sure recycling units are available in classroom and work areas.

Eco Centro, ACD’s community outreach center, provides hands-on experience in green infrastructure. Students have worked on a solar hydroponic project to demonstrate vertical agriculture strategies, and engineering students are working on the refurbishment of a shipping container for food production in a controlled atmosphere. A Shipping Container Home will be installed and used as a teaching facility about sustainable design and construction.

A 400-kW PV system installed at the Center for Excellence to provide training in solar panel installation and maintenance. Solar panels on the rooftop of the Scobee Education Center were connected to an eGauge system as an interactive educational experience and simulation training about energy and space science. And student workers at NVC help Facilities manage the recycling program on campus.

Climate Innovations

William R. Sinkin Eco Centro is an Alamo Colleges District’s community outreach center that promotes environmental sustainability. Eco Centro serves ACD and the city of San Antonio by hosting community events, supporting educational initiatives and creating partnerships with the city. Eco Centro’s LEED-certified facility is a showcase piece with rooftop solar panels and solar carports, water catchment tanks, electric vehicle charging stations, community garden areas and composting practices. The center blends these features with educational experiences and hosts activities and events available to the community. The wide variety of sustainability-related topics discussed at Eco Centro, such as water and transportation, are key areas to help achieve the City of San Antonio’s sustainability goals. Eco Centro’s partnership organizations include the San Antonio River Authority, San Antonio Water Systems and Green Spaces Alliance.

Other innovative initiatives include a recent project to convert an old trailer into a Mobile Weather Station for use as a STEM classroom is underway. The trailer will become a tool to promote meteorology, drive to communities, and educate middle and high school students about the complexities of climate science. The end goal is to prepare students to understand weather data and its applicability during a changing climate that is impacting San Antonio at a local level. Similarly, ACD’s Palo Alto College celebrates America Recycles Day on campus, to educate the community about the importance of recycling. And ACD’s Palo Alto College and San Antonio College support EcoExchangeEdu, where students from South Texas share sustainability ideas with the community.

Creating Opportunity

Alamo Colleges District has created a comprehensive district-wide approach to energy conservation. In February of 2017, cumulative energy savings since implementing the Energy Management and Continuous Commissioning® partnership with Texas A&M Energy System Laboratory reached $20M in cost savings, equivalent to 1,658,164 MMBTU. Since 2013, ACD has partnered with CPS Energy to participate in its Demand Response program. Chilled water thermal energy storage tanks have been installed on three campuses with excepted savings of 1.5 GWh/yr. Demand savings from the use of these tanks have allowed ACD to increase the contracted curtailment load on its Demand Response program. ACD also implements the Four Day Work Week initiative every summer, an alternative schedule from June to July where the colleges are closed on Fridays. Additionally, 600 kW capacity of solar panels have been installed at three campuses. Possible locations for spare panels are currently being evaluated. All planes will be connected to an eGauge system to continue the creation of educational tools readily available to students.

Sustainable transportation is also part of ACD. San Antonio’s VIA bus stops are accessible to students, faculty and staff. B-cycle has two solar-powered bike sharing stations at SAC, and electric vehicle charging stations are available at several locations. ACD recently completed its first transportation survey to better understand its commuting habits and help guide the search for new ways to decrease indirect emissions. Also, green purchasing of office supplies, equipment and fertilizers is being encourage through comprehensive partnerships with vendors and access to sustainability reports.