Championships may have eluded Penn on the hardwood and the gridiron this year, but the University blew out the competition in the latest iteration of the EPA’s College and University Green Power Challenge. Over the past academic year, Penn purchased more energy from renewable sources than any other university tracked by the government agency. Wind power accounted for some 192 million kilowatt hours of electricity consumed on campus—nearly half the total amount.
In recent years, 539 university and college presidents have pledged to eliminate their institutions’ greenhouse-gas emissions over time. Penn President Amy Gutmann joined that group in 2007 and has made environmental sustainability a priority in her administration.
In Pennsylvania, as in many other states, wind power costs slightly more than electricity from non-renewable sources, such as coal. For Penn, that premium amounted to $620,000 last year—or about 2 percent of the full electricity bill, according to Gerald McGillian, director of operations and maintenance administration.
Although it is the largest green-power consumer in terms of total volume, Penn trails several of its peers in percentage terms. New York University and Colby College, for instance, power their campuses exclusively through wind, biomass, and hydroelectric power. Nevertheless, the trend at Penn has been sharply upward. The University began buying wind power in 2004 and has increased its annual purchases nearly fivefold since then.