University awards energy contracts to enhance green initiatives

December 22, 2006

University Park, Pa. -- In a continuing commitment to reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuels, Penn State has awarded contracts to meet more than 20 percent of its electrical energy needs through renewable energy sources for the next five years.

The University has been a leader in use of renewal energy, making its first purchase of wind energy through a five-year contract in 2001 that provided for 5 percent of its annual electrical energy needs.

"These new five-year contracts enhance Penn State's environmental leadership and help reduce national dependence on fossil fuels by replacing 20 percent of the energy generated by those sources," said Ford Stryker, associate vice president for Physical Plant. "At the same time, use of other renewable energy sources and new technologies helps support the growing renewable energy market in Pennsylvania."

University officials estimate the environmental benefits of the new contracts are equivalent to more than 14,000 cars not being driven for one year, 22,000 tons of waste recycled instead of land filled and 536 acres of forest preserved from deforestation.

While the renewable energy market is growing, it is estimated that about 60 percent of electricity currently used in Pennsylvania is generated from coal and another 37 percent comes from nuclear power.

Michael I. Prinkey, energy program engineer in the Office of Physical Plant, said that as the renewable energy market expands, the cost is decreasing.

"Under the 2001 contracts, when wind energy was our only renewable energy option, the University paid $14 per megawatt-hour (MWH). Under the new contracts, with other sources now available, we are paying an average of $5 per MWH. And we are making a larger commitment to environmental-friendly renewable energy.

"While our total dollar commitment has increased slightly, we've been able to greatly increase the amount of renewable energy purchased under these contracts by paying less for it. And we're excited by the impact it will have on the environment through the reduction of greenhouse gases."

Prinkey said the Office of Physical received proposals from multiple vendors and awarded contracts to Community Energy, for Pennsylvania-based wind energy; 3 Phases Energy, for national wind and biomass energy; and Sterling Planet, for low-impact certified hydroelectric. The contracts also make new-technology, on-site renewable energy projects possible without a capital investment.

Under the contracts, the major sources of generation are wind, 8.1 percent; biomass, 3.9 percent; low-impact certified hydroelectric, 7.9 percent; new technologies (solar and bio-mass) 0.6 percent, for a total of 20.5 percent.

"In examining our energy requirements," he said, "our goals were to support new technologies, look at cheaper energy sources, and maintain our commitment to Pennsylvania-generated sources. We were able to achieve those goals and increase the total purchase to 20 percent of our electrical energy needs within our budget goal."

According to Prinkey, the Office of Physical Plant established goals for its greenhouse gas reduction initiative based on the purchase of renewable energy making up 10 percent of the University's total energy use.

"Now with 20 percent coming from renewable energy sources," he said, "we will be making a much greater contribution to that effort. And we're encouraging reduced consumption and the use of energy-efficient products on the part of the University community to add to that greenhouse gas reduction.

"Continued conservation efforts by the campus community will contribute to making our renewable energy purchase more effective."

For more information about Penn State's environmental efforts, visit http://www.psu.edu/ur/psugreen online.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 13, 2011