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Northwestern Buys 'Wind Power' for 20 Percent of Power Needs

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April 13, 2006

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University has launched a program to use renewable energy sources for 20 percent of its yearly energy needs for the next four years.

The University has purchased Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) sourced from wind energy that will provide 40,000 megawatt hours (Mwh) annually for the years 2006-2010, said Eugene S. Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance.

This is equivalent to preventing more than 77 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, taking 7,317 cars off the road or planting 9,586 acres of trees each year.

Northwestern now is the second largest purchaser of alternative energy sources among the nation’s colleges and universities, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has awarded its Green Power Partner designation to Northwestern for pursuing “greening the campus” initiatives and seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its operations.

“Green power” is a term for electricity that is partially or entirely generated from environmentally preferable renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, biogas, and low-impact hydro. It is sold to support the development of new renewable energy sources. Wind energy is a clean, naturally renewable energy source that is one of the most cost-effective new energy sources on the market. Northwestern’s renewable energy will be provided by midwestern wind farms, including the newly developed Weatherford Wind Energy Center in Custer County, Oklahoma.

By its commitment to purchase RECs, Northwestern will directly benefit the wind farms that produce clean energy to take the place of other non-renewable sources in the national electric grids. Power generated by Weatherford, similar firms and other clean energy sources is sent to the electric grids that monitor how much electricity is being drawn and ensures that enough electricity is being supplied to users.

Ronald Nayler, Northwestern’s associate vice president for facilities management, said the University’s commitment to the “green power” initiative is a major element of new comprehensive policies and projects to augment the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability and to reduce an anticipated multi-million dollar deficit in the utilities budget.

Northwestern’s Students for Ecological and Environmental Development (SEED) will discuss its support for this environmental initiative and related subjects during campus events April 17-21, including a renewable energy information session from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 19; a brown bag information session from noon to 1:30 p.m. April 20 in the Michigan Room at Norris University Center; and an Earth Day celebration at 5 p.m. April 21 in Deering Meadow.

“This Earth Day, we have a lot to celebrate,” said Rachel Patten, a sophomore in the School of Education and Social Policy and co-chair of (SEED). “We’re proud to be part of a school that takes action on its environmental values.”

Northwestern’s Renewable Energy Certificate program is administered by 3 Phases Energy, a national renewable energy marketing and development company. The firm is committed to promoting and implementing renewable energy options for businesses, utilities, governments, institutions, and individuals through green pricing support services for utilities, direct access, retail and wholesale sales of Green Certificates, and onsite efficiency and solar photovoltaic installation.