The University of Oklahoma (OU) has been selected as a Green Power Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The award recognizes green power purchasers who distinguish themselves through their impact on the green power market.
The EPA says in a news release that the University of Oklahoma is buying more than 97 million kilowatt-hours of green power annually, which is enough green power to meet 56 percent of the institution's purchased electricity use. It also is equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide emissions of more than 13,000 passenger vehicles per year, or is the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power more than 8,000 average American homes annually.
The University of Oklahoma was selected for the award, the EPA says, because it has set a national example for green power use in states with less experience with renewable energy. In September 2008, the university and the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company (OG&E) signed an agreement to buy 100 percent of the university's OG&E-supplied electricity from renewable resources by 2013.
The 101-megawatt OU Spirit Wind Farm in Woodward, Okla., now supplies electricity to the university and to customers across the state. The infrastructure created by the agreement has expanded the utility's ability to provide renewable electricity to other customers.
As the first institution in Oklahoma to sign the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the university has played a pioneering role in pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA says. Ninety percent of OU’s purchased power now comes from wind.
The university also is pursuing energy efficiency upgrades such as installing occupancy sensors for classroom lighting and retrofitting existing buildings, as well as developing water-efficient restrooms and instituting campuswide recycling. An advanced metering infrastructure program is being put into place to customize and manage energy demand across campus. By November 2012, all of the university' electric use will be monitored by smart meters.
“Students, faculty, and staff are engaged in the school’s sustainability work through the Crimson and Green campaign, which champions OU’s efforts in energy efficiency, wind power, green roofs, recycling, and other environmental actions,” the EPA says.
Other organizations named as Green Power Partners in 2012 are the city of Austin, Texas; Hilton Worldwide, and Microsoft Corporation.
Three other higher-education institutions also were honored by the EPA at its Green Power Leadership Awards. American University, Washington, D.C.; Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Conn.; and Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, N.Y., received Green Power Purchasing awards.
- American University's green accomplishments include installing a 532.3-kilowatt solar photovoltaic project on campus and procuring onsite solar thermal power through a power purchase agreement. Today, 100 percent of the electricity the school utilizes from the grid is sourced from certified renewable energy certificates. American University also is pursuing other sustainability initiatives. Its green building policy mandates that all new construction, renovation, and major repair projects achieve a minimum of LEED silver certification.
- Quinnipiac University buys close to 38 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, equivalent to 100 percent of the institution's electricity use. Quinnipiac buys certified renewable energy certificates sourced from wind. The university’s ongoing “Bobcat Bulb Swap” program enables students to trade up to six incandescent light bulbs for greener compact fluorescent models. In addition, hydration stations can be found throughout the campuses, enabling easy refilling of water bottles and reducing plastic waste. Wind turbines at the York Hill Campus generate 32,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually, and roof-top photovoltaic panels save another 250,000 kilowatt-hours. On Quinnipiac's Mount Carmel Campus, a community garden yields fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Hobart and William Smith Colleges buys more than 12 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy certificates, which has enable the institution to become the first small liberal arts college in New York State to use 100 percent wind-generated electricity. Hobart and William Smith’s Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2009, is designed to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Efficiency programs have cut energy consumption by 10 percent in the past three years.
The EPA co-sponsors the annual Green Power Leadership Awards in conjunction with the Center for Resource Solutions.