CORVALLIS, Ore. – For the second year in a row, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized Oregon State University for its purchase of green power, singling out OSU as the leading institution in the Pacific-10 Conference for its sustainability efforts.
The EPA announced this week that OSU led all Pac-10 institutions by purchasing nearly 67 million kilowatt-hours of green power. The purchase of that much green energy is equivalent to reducing the carbon dioxide emissions of nearly 8,800 passenger cars annually, the agency pointed out.
EPA’s recognition of the achievement is part of the agency’s EPA Green Power Partnership, which since 2006 has recognized collegiate athletic conferences with the highest combined green power purchases in the nation. The Individual Conference Champion Award, which OSU is receiving for 2008-09, recognizes the school with the highest green power purchase.
Green power is generated from renewable sources and is considered cleaner than conventional sources of electricity because it has lower carbon dioxide emissions.
Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s sustainability coordinator, said Oregon State’s ability to purchase green power is a result of a commitment to sustainability by students at the school. In 2007, OSU students overwhelmingly voted to assess themselves a fee of up to $8.50 per student each term to pay for green energy. The proposal passed by a margin of 71 percent to 29 percent, making OSU one of the first universities in the country to adopt such a measure.
“It has made a significant difference,” Trelstad said. “Those funds have boosted our ability to purchase renewable energy certificates from off-site sources, including wind energy, biogas and biomass.”
This is the latest in a series of sustainability initiatives that has brought national attention to OSU.
In 2008, the EPA named OSU one of 25 organizations to earn its Green Power Leadership Award, and the Kaplan College Guide listed the university as one of the nation’s top 25 “green colleges.” Also in 2008, Country Home magazine named Corvallis the greenest city in America in a listing of more than 350 cities – primarily because of its association with OSU.
Earlier this year, OSU became one of the first universities in the country to tap the kinetic energy generated by students working out on cardio machines and turning it into a form of renewable energy. OSU retrofitted 22 elliptical exercise machines in its student fee-funded Dixon Recreation Center and is collecting the power produced by students and feeding it back into the power grid.
“The amount of power generated isn’t overwhelming,” Trelstad said, “but it really helps students think about issues relating to energy production and consumption and encourages their activity in other areas. OSU students are quite energy-conscious – and becoming more so every day.”
Last month, the university finished its annual greenhouse gas inventory and reported a 30 percent reduction in net emissions during the past year – another direct result of student-supported green power purchases.
The university’s ability to use renewable power should get a boost later this year when the new $55 million energy center becomes fully operational, replacing a decades-old steam heating plant. The new center will be capable of burning renewable fuels – like methane and diesel – in the future, allowing OSU to produce about half of its electricity through co-generation.