Universities Partner With National Parks to Give Historic Sites Energy Makeovers

An idea Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) professor James Winebrake had more than a decade ago while working on energy issues at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia has solidified into a respected national program partnering universities with national parks to identify ways to make historic sites energy efficient and models of renewable energy use.

According to an Oct. 2 announcement by the university, Winebrake recently won a $350,000 grant from the National Park Service to continue fostering new energy-related projects through the University-National Park Energy Partnership Program (UNPEPP), which he co-founded in 1997 with Terry Brennan, National Parks Service Green Energy Parks Program coordinator.

During the last decade, UNPEPP has leveraged nearly $1.2 million for energy projects. The program has funded nearly 70 projects at more than 30 of the 375 national parks, with the average project costing $15,000.

"The goal is to improve the environmental quality of national parks, reduce energy bills and to educate future energy professionals," said Winebrake, professor and chair of RIT's Science, Technology and Society/Public Policy Department and UNPEPP director. He also is one of six members on the National Park Service's Working Group on Energy and Sustainability.

Improving energy efficiency at national parks conserves natural resources and saves tax dollars, Winebrake said. At the same time, students gain valuable experience conducting energy audits and data analysis, and finding ways to use alternative energy sources such as solar energy and wind turbines. UNPEPP has funded proposals from all over the country, including projects in Alaska and Hawaii. Last year, an RIT student worked with professor Carl Lundgren to conduct energy audits and identified energy conservation measures for the Women's Rights National Historic Site in Seneca Falls.

UNPEPP: http://www.energypartnerships.org

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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