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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Wind power program provides campus with energy

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

The wind power program is one example of how U students are changing the way the campus consumes energy.

As the U’s commitment to sustainability grows, so does its wind power program, which was established in 2005.

Thirteen percent of the U’s energy will come from wind power credits this year, which the U purchases at $3 per megawatt-hour. This year’s wind power total will be $115,000, purchased through funds from the Associated Students of the University of Utah and Campaigns for Sustainable Energy funds.

The initial wind power purchases provided energy to the ASUU offices, and now 39 departments and offices on campus receive energy through the program. Eight U departments are now climate neutral.

“The first purchases were funded by ASUU, and ASUU still provides most of the funds for the purchase,” said Chris Hill, a biochemistry professor. Hill runs the Campaigns for Sustainable Energy to provide additional funding for the wind power purchases.

“(CSE) allows any individual donor to provide additional support to the U’s renewable energy credit purchase,” Hill said. “This is important because the large scale of the U’s purchase means that the unit cost is very low, and the CSE provides one of the most cost effective ways for individuals to support renewable energy in the country.”

This year, the program’s growth has come from the CSE, said Orfeo Kostrencich, manager of the U’s wind power purchases.

“It has increased $5,000 due to the efforts of Chris Hill’s program,” he said.

The U purchases the wind power from Sterling Planet, an alternative energy supplier. Craig Forster, director for the Office of Sustainablity, said the U would prefer to generate its energy on campus; however, his office found that the U does not have enough wind for the venture to be profitable or efficient.

“The wind here isn’t enough to make it work,” Forster said.

A group of students decided to bring this wind power purchase program to the U in 2004. The U made its first purchase of wind power in April 2005.

“The choice was made by the students. It is a clean, renewable source of energy and one of the more economical options,” Kostrencich said. “All renewables can work in certain applications in Utah. The biggest challenge is finding incentives that are sufficient enough to make projects feasible. The low cost of power in Utah actually hurts us when it comes to implementing these types of projects because the payback is too long.”

Payback refers to the extent in which the loss of the cost of dirty energies, such as coal, makes up for the cost of materials for the renewable energy. The low cost of coal in this region makes purchasing energy from renewable sources, like wind, harder for the university to justify financially.

Forster believes the fact that the U is reducing its use of coal power is enough. “We’re compensating for coal power with wind energy credits,” he said.

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