University Park, Pa. -- For the fourth year in a row, Penn State leads the Big Ten and ranks third in the nation among colleges and universities in the amount of green power it uses, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA’s 2009-2010 Green Power Challenge ended Monday, April 19.
While renewable energy includes fuel sources that don’t diminish and that renew themselves – solar and wind power, for example – some renewable energy technologies may involve environmental tradeoffs, such as a large hydroelectric resource, which conflicts with land use.
Green power sources, on the other hand, avoid environmental impacts and produce no human-caused greenhouse gases. According to the EPA, these resources include solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, biomass and small hydroelectric sources.
At present, Penn State purchases almost 84 million kilowatt hours of green power – about 20 percent of the electricity the University consumes – generated by biomass, small hydroelectric sources and wind. Its providers, in order of volume, include 3Degrees, Sterling Planet and Community Energy.
Michael Prinkey, an engineer in the energy and engineering department of the University's Office of Physical Plant, said the percentage of green power purchased by Penn State probably will rise when the current contract ends in another year.
“We’ve been investigating other opportunities,” he said, “some of them on site, some of them directly contracted with people developing the projects.” This would also help fund some new energy projects.
In addition, Prinkey said, the market has changed since the current contract took effect. Now, all companies selling electricity in Pennsylvania must provide a certain amount of renewable or green power, so the University won’t necessarily need to contract to buy more.
For more information on the Green Power Partnership, visit http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/. Penn State's information portal for energy and environmental sustainability is at http://www.green.psu.edu/ online.