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OU to be powered completely by wind by 2013

Sep 10, 2008 - Murray Evans - The Associated Press

The University of Oklahoma's Norman campus will be completely powered by wind by 2013, OU President David Boren said Wednesday, calling the plan one of the largest renewable energy commitments ever made by a public university in the U.S.

In front of a backdrop of green balloons inside OU's Student Union, Boren made the announcement along with Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Pete Delaney.

OU will purchase the wind-generated power from OG&E, which plans to build a new commercial-scale wind farm near Woodward in northwestern Oklahoma. University regents approved the deal during a meeting earlier Wednesday in Tulsa.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission still must approve the planned wind farm and a new transmission line that is planned to run between Woodward and Oklahoma City.

Boren said OU also will increase its use of vehicles powered by compressed natural gas, or CNG, and will open a new CNG refueling station on campus in November.

"It is our patriotic duty as Americans to help our country achieve energy independence and to be sound stewards of the environment," Boren said. "All of us as Americans should unite in this effort.

"OU is uniquely situated for leadership in this area not only because of the conservation steps being announced today, but because of our academic leadership in fields related to advanced oil and gas production, enhanced recovery of fossil fuels, weather and climate research, biofuels research and other areas."

Currently, about 10 percent of OU's power is generated by wind. Boren said that OG&E will provide increasing amounts of wind power to the campus, particularly after what will be named the "OU Spirit" wind farm begins production in 2010.

"Together we are taking an important step to make Oklahoma a leader in renewable energy," said Delaney, who called renewable energy sources such as wind "an important part of our supply diversity."

Boren cited the University of Oregon and New York University, a private institution, as among the national leaders in using power generated by renewable sources on their campus. In Oklahoma, the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond made the switch to 100-percent wind power in April 2006.

"It's the right thing to do for the environment," UCO spokesman Charlie Johnson said. "Our green campus initiative has been very successful over the last several years."

Boren and UCO President Roger Webb are thought to be the only Oklahoma college presidents to have signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which asks schools to "achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible."

Delaney said that OG&E has committed to quadruple its wind-power production during the coming years. He said the Oklahoma City-based company also will establish internships and scholarships for OU students who study renewable energy.

Wind energy is fast becoming a major source of electricity, said Mike Bergey, a former president of the American Wind Energy Association and the current president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce.

"The Oklahoma economy is poised to receive up to $40 billion in wind energy investments and thousands of green-collar jobs," Bergey said. "Those are jobs that will help us keep our best and brightest here at home."

As for OU's current motor pool, Boren said it now includes 21 CNG-powered vehicles, 42 flex-fuel vehicles and 2 gas-electric hybrid vehicles and 40 electric carts. He said that as older, gasoline-powered vehicles are taken out of service, they will be replaced with vehicles that use alternative fuels.

Vehicles owned by the city of Norman also will be able to use the new CNG fueling station, which will be located at the campus motor pool's base of operations.

Boren said using wind-generated power shouldn't cost OU significantly more than it's now paying, and could even be cheaper long-term. He said that because of the university's membership in the Chicago Climate Exchange, as OU reduces its carbon dioxide emissions by purchasing wind power, it will earn renewable energy credits, which have a marketable value on the exchange.


Updated: 2016/06/30

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