Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

University purchases wind energy credits

A small part of all the wind coming out of Texas over the next two years will belong to the University of Denver.

DU bought it on Sept. 2.

“We couldn’t get any Colorado wind,” says Facilities Director Jeff Bemelen. “It was all spoken for.”

The “green power” purchase is like a carbon credit. By buying Renewable Energy Certificates, DU can offset its total electricity usage and support the development and increased production of wind power.

The new commitment is for 15 million kilowatt hours of wind power during each of the next two years. DU uses about 48 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, so the wind credits will offset about 31 percent of the University’s consumption.

A kilowatt hour is the amount of electricity ten 100-watt light bulbs use in one hour.

The purchase is a joint partnership between the University and its students, who each contribute about $6 of their quarterly student fees to buy wind energy credits. The total annual cost of the purchase is about $75,000 per year.

The two-year wind credit program began several years ago with four or five students in a Pioneer Leadership program, says finance and marketing senior Monica Kumar, student senate president.

“The greatest thing about the wind credit program is that it was a student-initiated program that came to fruition,” Kumar says. “It’s a good feeling to know we made a change for the campus and overall.”

Prior to the expiration of the wind-energy contract on July 31, students decided to reduce their commitment to the program so they could support energy-efficient lighting, Bemelen says. In response, Chancellor Robert Coombe agreed to make up the funding so DU could continue the wind program at the original level.

The new green power purchase is being made through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership, which “supports the development of new, renewable energy in the United States.”

The wind credits were purchased from Florida Power & Light Energy, the nation’s top wind project developer, and certified by Green-e, the verification arm of the Center for Resource Solutions (CRS). CRS is a nonprofit, San Francisco-based program that provides accountability standards for renewable energy products in order to support consumer confidence in the programs.

“We’re buying wind at less cost than last year,” Bemelen says. About a half-cent per kilowatt hour.

Wind-generated electricity accounts for only about 1 percent of the nation’s power, but the amount is an increasing. About 30 percent of the generating capacity added in 2007 was wind power, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

The trade group ranks Colorado sixth in the nation in installed, utility-scale wind power behind Texas, California, Minnesota, Iowa and Washington. It says existing wind generation replaces 75 million barrels of oil per year or 23 million tons of coal.

The association ranks Colorado 11th in the U.S. in “wind energy potential” with North Dakota being No. 1. If the nation’s wind energy potential were developed, the group projects, the total electric power presently generated in the U.S. could double.

Comments are closed.