Friday, November 16, 2007

RWU starting to get it?

A couple of weeks ago, I expressed in passing my hope that Roger Williams University would someday join the ranks of Bowdoin and Penn State (and a slew of others) in "greening" the campus. Looks like folks here were ahead of me on this and in recent weeks the University has brought sustainability to the forefront with the unveiling of the campus shuttle converted to run almost entirely on used canola oil. It's name is still up in that air (or rather stuck in committee), but I've heard two possibilities I like - 'The Canola Rolla' and 'Deep Fried Ride'.

This isn't biodiesel - it runs on straight vegetable oil (SVO) left over from campus dining. Unlike biodiesel, which can be used straight or mixed with conventional diesel in a diesel engine, SVO vehicles require an engine conversion to run properly. In addition to an engine conversion, SVO fueled vehicles generally preheat the oil before running it through the engine since it is more viscous than biodiesel, so most conversions include a two-tank system - one for PVO and one for diesel that will be used at start up and shut down to heat the PVO and clear it out of the engine so it doesn't gum up the works.

The PVO is recovered from dining service, filtered, and then stored in drums. The 'Canola Rolla' burns the PVO cleanly - releasing CO2 of course, but CO2 that was only recently removed from the atmosphere (via photosynthesis). Thus, burning PVO results in little net addition of CO2 to the present atmospheric carbon cycle, unlike burning fossil fuels which takes CO2 that had been sequestered away from the atmosphere for millions of years (and would have stayed there for millions more).

As an added benefit, I don't feel guilty about eating french fries. In fact, if I don't eat french fries, I'm being irresponsible, depriving RWU of a clean, renewable fuel source! Time for lunch.

Here's a short video on this project by The Feed:

No comments: