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UB ranks 14th in green power use

The solar panels on the roof of Norton Hall, installed in 2006, have a peak output of 73.5 kilowatts of electricity on a sunny day. Photo: NANCY J. PARISI

Published June 19, 2014

UB is the 14th-largest green power user among U.S. colleges and universities, according to new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rankings.

“Our longstanding commitment to fostering a sustainable campus climate is integral to our mission of research and educational excellence—and to helping us building stronger, more vibrant communities.”
Satish K. Tripathi, President
University at Buffalo

UB bought more than 44 million kilowatt-hours of green power, about 20 percent of the university’s electricity usage, for the 2011-12 academic year. That’s up from 22 million kilowatt-hours, or roughly 10 percent, in 2009-10, an indication that UB is moving toward reaching its goal of becoming climate neutral by 2030.

In fact, with the opening the new 3,200-panel Solar Strand on the North Campus and additional renewable-energy purchases, about 30 percent of the university’s power will be coming from renewable sources.

UB’s 2011-12 purchase is equivalent to avoiding a year’s worth of carbon dioxide emissions from nearly 6,000 passenger vehicles, according to the EPA’s Green Power Partnership program, which tracks the use of green power among 73 institutions of higher learning.

Well ahead of its peers in the Mid-American Conference, UB was named Individual Conference Champion by the EPA.

“EPA applauds the University at Buffalo as the Mid-American Conference Champion in this year’s College and University Green Power Challenge, as well as its appearance on the national Top 20 College & University list,” says Blaine Collison, director of EPA’s Green Power Partnership. “By both purchasing renewable electricity and generating it on site, the University at Buffalo is actively reducing its carbon footprint and setting an example for others to follow.”

President Satish K. Tripathi says the award underscores the university’s efforts to promote renewable energy and improve energy efficiency both on and off its three campuses.

“We are honored to be recognized by the EPA as a leading campus purchaser of green power, and we are especially grateful for the EPA’s appreciation for the critical role our nation’s colleges and universities play in developing and implementing environmentally sustainable solutions for the 21st century,” he says. “At the University at Buffalo, our longstanding commitment to fostering a sustainable campus climate is integral to our mission of research and educational excellence—and to helping us building stronger, more vibrant communities, locally as well as globally.”

In 2007, UB was among the first 150 institutions of higher learning to pledge to reduce or offset all of its greenhouse-gas emissions by signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. The pact, now signed by 675 colleges and universities, requires the signatories to make an inventory of their carbon emissions and create a plan to make each campus climate neutral.

UB has a 6,300-square-foot solar-panel installation on the roof of Norton Hall on the North Campus that can generate up to 73.5 kilowatts of electricity. The university also purchases renewable energy, primarily wind power, that is produced in the Buffalo Niagara region and Pennsylvania.

The university’s green-power portfolio grew last week when the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and UB officials flipped the switch on a 750-kilowatt solar array on the North Campus. Designed by world-renowned landscape architect Walter Hood and funded by NYPA, the Solar Strand measures 140 feet across and is approximately a quarter-mile long. It not only provides power, but is also a demonstration project intended to test and advance development of solar technologies in New York State and beyond for years to come.

UB also is finding innovative ways to reduce its electricity consumption. Last August, it opened Greiner Hall, a student residence building that was designed to “gold” under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. The building has high-efficiency lighting, low-flow faucets and other environment-friendly features.

Greiner Hall is one of six structures designed to earn LEED certification, the standard for green building. The other facilities opened or soon to open on UB’s three campuses are Barbara and Jack Davis Hall, an engineering building on the North Campus; UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center, which occupies the top floors of the new UB-Kaleida Health medical research building on the Downtown Campus; Crossroads Culinary Center, a student dining facility in the Ellicott Complex, North Campus; John and Editha Kapoor Hall, a pharmacy building on the South Campus; and the Educational Opportunity Center, currently under construction as part of the UB Downtown Gateway.

As a result of these efforts, UB has been able cut carbon emissions by 23 percent during the past 10 years. During the same time, square footage of the university’s facilities grew nearly 7 percent.

The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program that encourages organizations to buy green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with electricity use. The partnership currently has more than 1,300 partner organizations voluntarily purchasing billions of kilowatt-hours of green power annually. Partners include a variety of leading organizations, such as Fortune 500® companies; small- and medium-sized businesses; local, state and federal governments; and colleges and universities.

For more information about EPA’s College and University Green Power Challenge, visit the challenge website.