Western Washington University is now receiving energy from the Skookumchuck Wind Facility as part of Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct program, a ground-breaking initiative designed to provide PSE corporate and governmental customers the ability to purchase 100 percent of their energy from a dedicated, local, renewable energy resource, while providing them with a stable, cost efficient solution.
“Thanks to this innovative new power procurement tariff with Puget Sound Energy, WWU is the first university to buy 100 percent renewable energy from new, additional wind and solar farms in a regulated electric market. This is an important step in realizing WWU’s carbon-neutral goal and broader sustainability plan, and it aligns with the Institute for Energy Studies’ unique academic program in clean energy, energy efficiency and electric utility planning,” said Joel Swisher, director of the Institute for Energy Studies at Western.
The project, owned by Southern Power, will produce enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of nearly 30,000 Washington homes. It is located on Weyerhaeuser timber land, located in Lewis and Thurston counties. It is the first large wind project located in the western part of the state of Washington.
In addition to Western, other participants in the PSE program include the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County and a number of corporations and other governmental agencies in the state. See PSE’s full announcement here.
The wind farm energy sourcing will enable Western to officially reduce its carbon footprint, as recognized by the state, by about a third, or approximately 11,000 tons.
For many years, Western has appeared on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the top green energy purchasers in higher education. Western has annually offset 100 percent of its electrical consumption from green sources via purchases of renewable energy credits.
The genesis for Western’s renewable energy program began when a WWU student club, Students for Renewable Energy, set a goal of having Western offset all of its electrical energy from a 100-percent renewable source. To meet that goal they proposed a student initiative to implement a fee that would offset the cost of purchasing renewable energy credits.
The student initiative passed in a spring 2004 student election and the WWU Board of Trustees approved the student fee, then called the Green Energy Fee, which went into effect in 2005 and aimed solely at purchasing renewable energy credits to offset 100 percent of campus electricity usage with green energy.
As the cost to purchase green energy declined, students voted in 2010 to renew the fee and expand the program by offering grants for innovative student-driven project proposals that fit within the mission and priorities of the program.
The student-funded Green Energy Fee later was renamed the Sustainability, Equity, & Justice Fund, to further highlight the social equity and justice dimensions of sustainability. It promotes sustainability by providing students with the opportunity to create and implement projects that positively impact environmental, social, health, and economic practices on Western’s campus and in the community.
In addition, an online energy dashboard organizes and catalogs the university’s energy usage, utility cost and types of waste for all 44 buildings on Western’s campus. This dashboard allows users to look up detailed information of specific buildings, campus-wide trends and historical data. The dashboard resulted from a collaborative effort between Western’s Facilities Management, Institute for Energy Studies and Office of Sustainability, and is paid for through the Sustainability, Equity and Justice Fund.