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By Kristen Cole    Date: 8/27/09 Bookmark and Share

Ada's Initiative Helps Take the Heat Off Energy Use

Kerry Valentine outside the newly efficient King-Scales walk-in cooler.

Last year, when Kerry Valentine, a senior Ada Comstock Scholar, was challenged to come up with an environmentally sustainable project that could be applied to Smith College, she kept her cool.

That is, Valentine set to work researching an energy-saving technology that had recently been installed in the walk-in coolers of the restaurant she manages locally, and determined it could also benefit her school.

Valentine, 31, was presented with the challenge as part of an environmental science and policy seminar she was taking, taught by David Smith, associate professor of biological sciences.

At Valentine’s restaurant, the energy solutions company National Resource Management had installed in two walk-in coolers its “CoolTrol” system, which reduces the amount of time the compressor runs, thereby maximizing the energy efficiency and minimizing operational costs.

She offered the information to Smith’s energy manager, Todd Holland, whose position also serves other area colleges, and news about the cooler technology spread.

“When this project came up I just kind of put the two together,” Valentine said of her initiative in sharing the CoolTrol technology. “I contacted a rep from the company and it just snowballed.”

Following Valentine’s tip, the CoolTrol technology is scheduled for installation soon in 20 coolers at Smith, including those located in all of the residence dining rooms as well as the Campus Center Café. In addition, Amherst College and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, will have the new technology before the end of this year.

“This story illustrates the potential when classes embrace projects,” said Dano Weisbord, Smith’s environmental sustainability director. “That technology was simply not on our radar screen. Now it will save energy on numerous campuses.”

After an up-front cost of $50,000, the technology will save Smith about $17,000 a year in electricity. Plus, Smith received a rebate from National Grid to invest in the energy-saving project.

While Smith courses often encourage students to pursue real-world projects, they don’t always come to fruition as successfully as Valentine’s.

Appropriately, Valentine received an “A” in that course.


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