May 12, 2011

EPA designates Iowa State as a Green Power Partner

by Annette Hacker, News Service

Iowa State has been recognized as a Green Power Partner by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its "significant purchase" of wind energy and its support of sustainable technologies.

For an organization to qualify as a partner, it must purchase at least 3 percent of its annual electricity use via green power. Eligible resources include solar photovoltaic, wind, geothermal, eligible biomass, fuel cells, biodiesel-fueled generators and certain types of hydropower.

Jeff Witt, director of utilities, said the university now is buying enough wind power to supply more than 7 percent of its electricity needs -- an increase from 4.4 percent in calendar year 2010. Iowa State is still striving to meet a goal of 10 percent, Witt said, but is challenged by a transmission system that can't fully support the power being generated by NextEra Energy's 100-turbine wind farm south of Zearing.

At times, that means wind farm operators have to curtail some of the output. Transmission upgrades planned for 2012 should help address that issue, Witt added.

"Iowa State is unique compared to many campuses. We are purchasing directly from the wind farm and therefore see the variability in production from the farm," Witt said. "We track this variability on an hourly and daily basis, and share the information with student groups and others on campus with an interest in wind energy."

Another goal to strive for is inclusion in the EPA's quarterly list of the top 20 colleges and universities buying green power. Reaching that depends on many factors, Witt said, most notably, variability and price. Wind energy currently costs more than electricity generated from nonrenewable sources. Green power purchasers on the EPA's top 20 list vary widely. Ohio State University, Columbus, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, buy 9 percent of their electricity needs through renewable sources. Green powers purchases reflect 100 percent of electricity needs at Drexel University, Philadephia; University of California, Santa Cruz; and American University, Washington D.C.

Witt said Iowa State also is a partner in the EPA's Combined Heat and Power Partnership, which recognizes the power plant's use of cogeneration (or combined heat and power) to provide energy to the campus with higher efficiencies and lower emissions than conventional sources.