Let the Sun Shine

With a new solar power contract, the U is one step closer to the audacious goal of being carbon neutral by 2050


Flipping on a light at the U just got a whole lot more sustainable. The U signed a new 25-year solar energy contract, which will bring it to 71 percent of all electrical energy coming from renewable sources. Already the first public university in the state to receive more than half its electricity from renewable sources, with this new contract it’s now in the top five for sustainable energy use among all colleges and universities nationwide.

In 2018, the U went from about 5 percent of its power coming from renewable energy sources to 54 percent with a geothermal energy contract. That contract is presently ranked as the number one largest long-term contract of any college or university under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership. All of these efforts are part of a goal for the university to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

The latest move toward that goal is a solar power contract with Castle Solar Project near Huntington, Utah. The contract will deliver 20 megawatts of solar energy to campus.

“We simply can’t be carbon neutral without sourcing our energy from clean and renewable sources,” says Chris Benson BS’08, associate director of sustainability and energy. “Off-site production is a great way to build and leverage economies of scale. With a combination of geothermal, our baseload, and solar for peaking, loads are well-matched, and costs remain well-managed.”

The university operates nearly 300 buildings that support health care, research, education, and housing. And until now, it has consumed about 1 percent of all electricity and natural gas in the state. But with the latest moves, the U is significantly reducing the environmental impact of the electrical grid.

“We want to demonstrate what is possible by leading with sustainable choices in our operations,” says Kerry Case, chief sustainability officer at the U. “We recently launched an effort to identify additional strategies that will reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions and increase our community’s resilience to climate change.”

Read more about efforts to make and keep the U sustainable.

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