Red goes for green energy

Solar panels at the University of Utah.

The University of Utah is investing in both on- and off-site solar as part of its plan to reduce carbon emissions.

By Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Sustainability Resource Center

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has once again recognized the University of Utah as a top school for green power purchasing in its College and University Green Power Challenge.

The U ranked eighth in the nation—and first in the Pac-12—during the 2014-15 competition by purchasing 85,926,100 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy. The total represents 28 percent of the U’s total energy use, and it is equivalent to taking more than 12,400 cars off the road. The EPA recognized 39 schools that each purchased at least 10 million kwh of green power.

Much of the credit for the U’s accomplishment is owed to students. More than a decade ago, a student-led campaign created a clean energy fund. Because of the campaign, every semester each student contributes $1 toward renewable power.

Offsetting its energy use by purchasing renewable energy credits is just one way the University of Utah is working to lead by example in energy efficiency and renewable power. The U is a “visionary” partner with Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky Business Partner Program. The school is also participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge and was recognized last fall for reducing energy use in historic Dumke Health Professions Education Building by 40 percent, saving $57,000 annually.

Solar panels on Amy Wildermuth's home.

Amy Wildermuth, chief sustainability officer for the University of Utah, installed 3.03 kilowatts of solar through U Community Solar at her home, offsetting more than half of her family’s home electricity use.

The U is also working to increase the amount of renewable energy generated right here in the Salt Lake Valley. In March, the university unveiled the Marriott Library’s new solar system, which is the seventh building on campus with solar panels. The campus now has a total of 766 kilowatts of solar panels actively generating electricity, and more systems are planned for the coming year. In addition, through the innovative U Community Solar program, which offered U community members the opportunity to purchase discounted solar panels and installation for their homes, the school assisted in the installation of 1,800 kilowatts of solar panels on local residences. It was the first school in the country to host a community solar program.

Installation of local renewable energy and the continued purchase of renewable energy credits are among the U’s strategies to reach its goal to be carbon neutral by 2050, says Chief Sustainability Officer Amy Wildermuth.

“We are pleased and excited to be promoting and incorporating renewable energy at the U in multiple ways,” says Wildermuth. “Whether we are helping our community overcome barriers to installing solar panels on their personal homes, building renewable energy production on campus or partnering with the EPA to support green power purchasing through the Green Power Challenge, we take pride in knowing we are helping to create multiple pathways to sustainability.”

Ayrel Clark-Proffitt is the outreach and education coordinator for the Sustainability Resource Center.

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