How higher education is powering the renewables market

Climate change is an enormous challenge that affects all countries and sectors of the economy.

Within a complex climate and energy scenario, every industry has a role to play, including higher education. One strategy gaining traction among universities across the nation is the use of long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with renewable energy providers to shrink schools' carbon footprints and improve their bottom lines.

The long-term wind power contract of three universities was the subject of a recent webinar hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership (GPP) and Second Nature, a nonprofit that promotes sustainability in higher education.

Ohio State University (OSU), a large public university of more than 55,000 students, for example, projects nearly $1 million in energy cost savings due to their recently signed PPA. As of November 2012, OSU's Columbus campus has bought 50 megawatts of energy annually through a 20-year contract with Blue Creek Wind Farm, Ohio's largest commercial wind farm. It is expected to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by around 66,000 tons annually, which accounts for approximately 9 percent of total emissions.

To gain more insight into the potential role for higher education in the green energy market, I turned to Blaine Collison, GPP's program director who provides technical and procedural knowledge that schools need to navigate market barriers.

Gabriela Boscio: What is the importance of focusing on higher education and green power?

Blaine Collison: Higher education can be a transformative sector for U.S. green power. Higher education's operational, organizational and financial characteristics, as well as its set of stakeholders, give it striking opportunities in the marketplace to access a compelling series of benefits for itself, its stakeholders and society at large.

Wind turbine image by bahri altay via Shutterstock.

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