What would you do if you were a university administrator faced with two options for providing heat for your campus? On the one hand, you can adopt a plan that uses alternative energy (e.g., wind or solar) to generate the heat. On the other hand, you can upgrade an existing coal-fired plant to do so. Assume that the alternative energy route is significantly more expensive than the coal route, but that the coal option produces far greater greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than alternative energy.
The coal option has the advantage of being relatively cheap. However, it has the disadvantages of producing significant pollution and contributing to climate change, which seriously threatens the well-being of persons and ecosystems around the world. The alternative energy option has the advantage of not contributing to climate change. However, it has the disadvantage of being relatively expensive. Nonetheless, a choice must be made. Which option would you choose?
Administrators at Penn State currently face a similar choice. At present, the coal-fired plant on Burrowes Road provides most of the heat for the University Park campus. The university plans to upgrade the plant in the near future but has not decided whether to use coal, natural gas, alternative energy, or some other fuel source. For more information, see this article on upgrading the Burrowes coal-fired plant, as well as our other blog posts below.