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NAU Greens Up Power Usage

Rachelle Berry, a sustainability coordinator with Northern Arizona University's Office of Sustainability, shows off the solar thermal air panel system installed on campus last year. Photo courtesy of NAU

By Emery Cowan for Arizona Daily Sun

Northern Arizona University’s green power advocates got some good news last week when the Environmental Protection Agency announced that NAU is the largest user of energy from renewable sources in the Big Sky athletic conference, with more than 8M kilowatt-hours in 2014.

That amounts to 13 percent of the school’s annual electricity usage and is up from 10 percent in 2013. According to the EPA, 8M kilowatt-hours is equal to the annual electricity use of almost 800 average American homes.

The university’s newest goal is for 15 percent of energy consumed to come from renewable sources, though how much money is allocated to purchasing renewable energy credits depends on the university’s budget circumstances, said John Morris, assistant vice president of facility services.

The guiding document for NAU’s green goals is a newly created sustainability action plan that was rolled out in April. It touches on everything from water management to recycling and waste minimization on campus and has the support of the university’s top administrators, Vaughan said.

The energy and climate section lays out steps toward achieving the university’s ultimate goal of carbon neutrality.

Beyond buying more renewable energy credits, the action plan encourages increasing renewable energy development on campus. So far, the university has completed several solar, wind and solar thermal projects, including a 163-kilowatt photovoltaic solar field and four small wind turbines.

One of the university’s most recent accomplishments was the completion last year of a solar thermal air panel system. Six panels installed on the Campus Surplus warehouse generate more than 40,000 BTUs per hour, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by three tons annually.

Read more at Arizona Daily Sun

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