Originally posted Monday, 13 September 2010

Written by Owners Perspective

Southwestern University has signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the City of Georgetown, Texas that will enable it to meet all its electric needs for the next 18 years from wind power.

Texas University signs a PPA to get all of its energy from wind power for the next 18 years

Southwestern University has signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the City of Georgetown, Texas that will enable it to meet all its electric needs for the next 18 years from wind power.

The agreement makes Southwestern, a liberal arts college with about 1,300 students, the first university in the state to have all of its electricity supplied by wind power and one of fewer than 20 universities in the country to have a totally “green” source of power, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“In recent weeks, much attention has been focused on how the world can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By taking the bold step to obtaining all of their electricity from wind power, Southwestern University becomes a leader in showing the nation how it can be done,” said Paul Rowland, executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

Wind-generated power will be provided by the City of Georgetown through an agreement with AEP Energy Partners, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, one of the largest electric utilities in the United States. The electricity will come from the Southwest Mesa and South Trent Wind Farms in West Texas. These two wind farms have a total of 151 wind turbines, each of which can generate between 0.7 to 2.3 megawatts of electricity. Power is conveyed through transmission lines to customers such as the City of Georgetown.

Officials from Southwestern and the city signed the contract Jan. 12. The initial contract is for five years and is renewable through 2028. Southwestern President Jake B. Schrum said the agreement will help Southwestern toward its long-term goal of being carbon neutral, which it promised to work toward last February when he signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. This document formally commits campuses to eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions over time and educate students about climate neutrality.

“This is a historic moment for Southwestern,” Schrum said. “We hope Southwestern will be an inspiration to other universities to advance sustainability.” He noted that Southwestern students were the ones who initiated the conversation with city officials, and after that, both the city and the university worked to bring the idea to reality.

Jim Briggs, Georgetown’s assistant city manager for utility operations, said Southwestern is one of the city’s largest customers, with energy needs that are equivalent to the demand from 450 homes. The agreement establishes a fixed energy cost for Southwestern that is competitive with the city’s standard electric rates.

Briggs noted that the agreement also helps the city move toward the goal of meeting 30 percent of the city’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. “This is the kind of renewable energy partnership we want to expand in the future. This is only a beginning,” Briggs said.

Richard Anderson, vice president for fiscal affairs at Southwestern, noted that having its utility price locked in for the next 18 years will help the university considerably in its strategic planning.

Under the agreement, Southwestern will pay Georgetown a fixed rate for the wind power. Anderson said the rate is higher than what it pays now, but he said the university assumes conventional electricity rates will rise and that the university will break even on the deal in three to five years.

“In a relatively short time, we expect to break even and then see actual savings,” he said. “It’s better for our budget for energy costs in the long run, not only because of fluctuations in the energy market, but also because of unexpected events,” such as rate and regulatory changes.

“We’re proud of this partnership with the City of Georgetown,” Anderson said. “With this wind energy agreement, we are making a strong statement reflecting Southwestern’s commitment to conservation and sustainability, and our concern for the environment for the long term.”

American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment

The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) is making a tremendous impact on the nation and the climate. As of December 31, 2009, 665 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia have made the Commitment, representing 5.6 million students—more than one third of the higher education student population in the United States. The schools’ current and planned emissions reductions represent a cut of more than 33 million metric tons of CO2e per year.

Signatory schools are showing the rest of society how to work quickly toward climate neutrality. They are dramatically reducing operating costs, training clean energy workers, and spurring innovation in energy efficiency, transportation, and renewable power. They are teaching tomorrow’s architects, business leaders, policy-makers, engineers, economists, and product designers how to operate society sustainably.

In joining the ACUPCC, signatories are committing to:

• Conducting an annual inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions;

• Implementing two or more short-term ‘tangible actions’ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

• Developing a customized Climate Action Plan to reach climate neutrality in operations;

• Making sustainability a part of the educational experience for all students;

• Making the action plan, inventory, and periodic progress reports publicly available to facilitate and accelerate progress for fellow institutions and society.

The framework of the ACUPCC facilitates the process of establishing a vision for a climate neutral, sustainable future while at the same time taking immediate, tangible actions. ACUPCC institutions agree to take at least two of the following actions within two years of signing the Commitment:

1. Establish a policy that all new campus construction will be built to at least the US Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard or equivalent.

2. Adopt an energy-efficient appliance purchasing policy, requiring purchase of ENERGY STAR certified products in all areas for which such ratings exist.

3. Establish a policy of offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions generated by air travel paid for by our institution.

4. Encourage use of and provide access to public transportation for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors at our institution.

5. Within one year of signing the Commitment, begin purchasing or producing at least 15% of our institution’s electricity consumption from renewable sources.

6. Establish a policy or a committee that supports climate and sustainability shareholder proposals at companies where our institution’s endowment is invested.

7. Participate in the Waste Minimization component of the national RecycleMania competition, and adopt three or more associated measures to reduce waste.