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Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant seeks to prevent pollution through electric landscaping equipment | University Park Campus News

As part of Penn State’s various sustainability initiatives, the Office of Physical Plant first replaced its gas-powered hedge trimmers, weed killers, and most of its lawnmowers with new electric ones about three years ago, according to Ryan McCaughey, OPP site manager and equipment.

McCaughey said one of the main disadvantages of gas-powered machines is pollution. The old gas powered machines polluted the local environment by burning carbon and spilling oil.

The new machines are popular with the crew, and the batteries last as long as the gas engines, McCaughey said.



Landscaper, vehicle

Landscape maintenance vehicle parked in front of the Old Main in University Park, Pennsylvania on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.



Meghan Hoskins, an analytical and planning consultant at Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, said via email that the move to the new equipment “reduced” [Penn State’s] Dependence on fossil fuel burning, which causes air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and noise. “

“The electrical devices have to be charged with electricity, but the electricity purchased from OPP will become cleaner and less dependent on fossil fuels over time, especially now that it is a quarter of the nationwide [Penn State]-The electricity purchased will be generated by three solar panels in Franklin County developed by Lightsource bp, ”said Hoskins.

Todd Zook, a landscaper, said the new electrical equipment worked “better than expected” as he “feared” the new technology wouldn’t last three years.

Zook said he estimates the new equipment will cost 25% more than the gas-powered equipment once OPP buys new batteries.

The smaller lawnmowers need new batteries every 45 minutes, according to Zook, which, according to McCaughey, was the same time frame that gas engines needed to be refueled.

Electrical appliances are also quieter, according to McCaughey, who said the only sound the electric mowers make is the blades moving. He said the engines themselves are essentially silent.

“We got a lot of positive comments about how calm things are,” said McCaughey.

Zook said the reduced noise eased tensions between professors and gas-powered lawnmowers that disrupt classes.



Landscaping crew, weed killers

A weed killer will be installed by the landscape gardener on Wednesday, September 9th.



McCaughey said electrical equipment costs more upfront, although that cost is offset by lower maintenance costs. He said the weed killers pay for themselves in a year and a half.

“We’ve had great success in electric mobility,” said McCaughey. “We did a lot of research at the beginning and then switched everything to one brand after the change so that we were consistent with all batteries.”

Zook also said that Mean Green Mowers was the only manufacturer of electric ride-on lawnmowers when Penn State first bought them. He said DeWalt was the only company making push mowers and other hand tools when OPP bought them.

According to Zook, more and more companies are producing electrical appliances, which should drive the price down due to competition. However, Zook said Penn State still uses Mean Green and DeWalt for its mowers.

“Almost every brand you can think of has their own version of battery power,” said Zook.

The OPP buildings, where the devices are stored and charged overnight, were never designed to charge so many instruments, Zook said, which resulted in OPP having to install more electrical outlets.

McCaughey and Zook said the battery-powered machines didn’t require as much maintenance as the old ones.



Landscaper, leaf blower

A leaf blower will be used by the landscaping crew in University Park, Pennsylvania on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.



“I would say they held up well at the moment,” said Zook. “We were very lucky that everything held up so well.”

Hoskins said university staff are looking for ways to reduce the overall use of landscaping. She believes there are several lawns on campus that are mowed weekly that could be converted into areas that only need to be mowed once or twice a year.

“If we go further, we could also install native grasses and flowers in place of grass,” said Hoskins, a strategy currently being tested at the intersection of College Avenue and University Drive.

“These landscapes would increase the biodiversity of insects and wildlife and reduce our need for mowers.”

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