Local colleges, universities incorporating wind energy
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Across the region, more and more colleges and universities are showing their commitment to going green by using wind energy.
In perhaps the boldest moves among schools in the region, Mercyhurst College in Erie vows by July 1 to have 100 percent of its electricity generated from wind energy, and Allegheny College in Meadville, Crawford County, promises to reach the same goal in 2011.
While the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection does not keep track of the number of colleges and universities purchasing wind energy, Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University and Chatham University are among other schools in the region using wind energy.
At CMU, 75 percent of electricity comes from wind energy, said Martin Altschul, university engineer, and at Chatham 12 percent to 15 percent of electricity comes from wind energy, said Mary Whitney, university sustainability coordinator.
The University of Pittsburgh does not purchase wind power directly, but it's included in the 6.7 percent of electricity from Duquesne Light that comes from alternative and renewable sources, and in the 785,000 kilowatt hours per year of renewable energy purchased from Community Energy, a Delaware County company that provides fuel-free energy sources, said Morgan Kelly, a Pitt spokesperson.
Although wind energy is more expensive than traditional gas or fuel sources of energy, the benefits outweigh the costs, according to representatives from the schools.
"It's an expenditure that we're willing to absorb upfront for the educational benefit and to advance the mission of the college," said Chris Magoc, chairman of the Mercyhurst Green Team.
The wind energy purchased by Chatham College from Renewable Choice Energy, a Colorado-based company, costs about 2 cents more per kilowatt hour than regular electricity, and the wind energy purchased by CMU from Community Energy costs "much less" than 2 cents more but still means an increase in spending for the school, Mr. Altschul said.
The electricity will cost Allegheny College 7.6 cents per kwh, up from the current price of 6.4 cents per kwh the school pays for energy provided by Penelec, an Ohio-based company, which means an increase of around 20 percent in electricity costs for the school, said Kelly Boulton, Allegheny sustainability coordinator.
At Mercyhurst, wind energy also represents an investment, but it is one that is becoming more affordable as the price of wind energy declines.
When it begins purchasing 100 percent of its energy from wind next month, the college expects to pay $28,940 annually. That compares with spending $35,000 for wind energy in 2008 and in 2009, when Mercyhurst was getting only 30 percent of its energy from this alternative source.
Wind energy also brings with it a strong environmental impact.
Mercyhurst, Chatham and Allegheny, as well as Slippery Rock University, are among the 685 signatories of the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment, in which they've promised to work to achieve climate neutrality.
Allegheny's wind purchase, for example, reduces carbon emissions by 52 percent, which takes the school more than halfway to meeting its goal of neutrality by 2020.
While Carnegie Mellon is not a signatory of the Climate Commitment because the school believes that achieving climate neutrality is "unrealistic" when every one of its students emits carbon dioxide as they breathe, the school purchases almost 87 million kwh of green power annually, Mr. Altschul said.
"We're determined to do the best we can, but that doesn't mean the end game will be zero," he added.
Correction/Clarification: (Published June 4, 2010) Robert Morris University in Moon is not one of the 685 signatories of the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment, as this story indicated as originally published on June 3, 2010. Robert Morris University in Chicago is the signatory.
First Published June 3, 2010 12:00 am