Marking one of the largest renewable energy commitments ever by a public university in the United States, the University of Oklahoma Norman campus will purchase 100 percent of its electricity from wind power by 2013 with the signing today of a wind power agreement with Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company.
OU also plans to expand its use of vehicles powered by compressed natural gas and will open a new cng refueling station at the new campus motor pool. The Transportation Operations Center is set to open in November. It will also make the fueling station available to the city of Norman for its vehicles.
OU will rank among the nation's top renewable-energy-purchasing universities in the country.
OU President David Boren said, "It is our patriotic duty as Americans to help our country achieve energy independence and to be sound stewards of the environment. All of us as Americans should unite in this effort. OU is uniquely situated for leadership in this area not only because of the conservation steps being announced today, but because of our academic leadership in fields related to advanced oil and gas production, enhanced recovery of fossil fuels, weather and climate research, biofuels research and other areas."
"OU is proud to become a national role model for responsible stewardship of the environment," said Boren. "It is fitting -- given the history of our state -- that the university should play a pioneering role," he said.
The agreement was signed by Boren and OG&E CEO Pete Delaney in the Oklahoma Memorial Union at 2:30 p.m. before a large audience from the university community.
OU is achieving the environmental benefits associated with wind energy by supporting development of a new commercial-scale wind farm to be constructed by OG&E near Woodward, Okla. It will be named the "OU Spirit" wind farm. Increased reliance on wind energy will also grow the state's economy. Nearly a decade ago, OU researchers had the foresight to create the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative. Today, wind energy has the potential to create more than 15,000 new jobs and $500 million a year in property tax revenues in Oklahoma with appropriate investment in research and job training.
"OU has for more than a century demonstrated its commitment to developing Oklahoma's resources both for the benefit of the state and for our global economy," said Delaney, OG&E's president, chairman and CEO. "At OG&E, we share that long-term commitment. We look forward to developing one of the state's crucial resources for the benefit of one of the state's most valued institutions."
President Boren also indicated that OU will continue to place a high priority on its national leadership in oil and gas research. OU's oil and gas research will continue to focus on unconventional reservoirs such as shale gas and tight gas sands. It also will continue to have many programs in enhanced recovery from existing oil and gas wells and on improved drilling safety.
The wind farm will provide increasing amounts of renewable energy to OU's Norman campus beginning with available wind power in 2008 and expanding with wind power from the new facility when it begins production in 2010.
"Nationally, wind energy is well on its way to becoming a major source of electricity. The Oklahoma economy is poised to receive up to $40 billion in wind energy investments and thousands of green collar jobs. Those are jobs that will help us keep our best and brightest here at home," said Mike Bergey, former President of the American Wind Energy Association, a leading national wind power association, and current President of the Norman Chamber of Commerce. "I salute the clean energy leadership of the University and President Boren. OU has set a high bar on stewardship and is strengthening the State's economy by purchasing Oklahoma wind power. It is also a great credit to OG&E for its bold leadership in making this possible."
To further support OU's commitment, OG&E will establish internships and scholarships for OU students whose studies are focused on renewable energy as well as support campus events focusing on renewable energy. The university will exercise its naming rights for the new wind farm by naming it the "OU Spirit" wind farm.
This agreement with OG&E further establishes OU as a national leader in renewable energy and the development of policies and institutions to promote sustainable energy. OU was an inaugural member of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). Via its participation in the CCX, as OU reduces its carbon dioxide emissions in this purchase of wind power, the university will earn Renewable Energy Credits that have a marketable value on the Chicago Climate Exchange.
OU also has instituted a number of other environmental initiatives. OU's parking and transportation department uses 21 compressed natural gas fueled vehicles, 42 flex fuel vehicles, 2 gas/electric hybrid vehicles, and 40 electric carts used by the landscape department and Physical Plant staff in its fleet with the goal of reducing the consumption of fossil fuels. Last year, the department used about 24,000 gallons of compressed natural gas in its specially equipped vehicles, which translates to an equivalent amount of diesel fuel that, as a result, was not consumed.
OU's on-campus fleet services has the capability of fueling vehicles with compressed natural gas. Ethanol and bio-diesel fueling capabilities will be available with the opening this fall of the new transportation operations center on campus. OU also announced today that it is making its cng fueling station available to the city of Norman for city vehicles.
OU 's vehicle alternative fuels policy states that any new vehicles purchased must be capable of using an alternative fuel, unless the vehicles must be a specialized vehicle for which no model is available with an alternative fuel capacity. Additionally, the policy states that any new small utility vehicles purchased must be electrically powered.
Today, OG&E's system features wind energy from the Sooner Wind Farm near Woodward, which went into service in 2003 and its Centennial Wind Farm near Ft. Supply, which was commissioned in 2007.
The new 100 MW "OU Spirit" wind farm will be located on property leased for that purpose near the path of OG&E's planned transmission line between northwest Oklahoma City and Woodward. The new line will be used to transport electricity from remote wind farms in northwestern Oklahoma to larger population centers in the state and region.
The agreement between OG&E and OU is subject to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's approval of the planned wind farm and the new transmission line under development between Woodward and Oklahoma City.
OG&E, a regulated electric utility with more than 765,000 customers in a service area spanning 30,000 square miles in Oklahoma and western Arkansas, is a subsidiary of Oklahoma City-based OGE Energy Corp. (NYSE: OGE), which also is the parent of Enogex LLC, a midstream natural gas pipeline business with principal operations in Oklahoma.