• As of January 2010, all of Southwestern's electricity will come from wind farms in West Texas.
  • President Jake B. Schrum (right) and Georgetown Mayor George Garver sign the agreement that will enable Southwestern to receive all of its electricity from windpower. (photo by Carlos Barron)
  • Students from SEAK (Students for Environmental Activism and Knowledge) were all smiles after the signing of the windpower agreement.

Southwestern University has signed an agreement with the City of Georgetown that will enable it to meet all its electric needs for the next 18 years from wind power.

The agreement makes Southwestern the first university in Texas to have all of its electricity supplied by wind power and one of fewer than 20 universities in the country to have a totally “green” source of power, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“In recent weeks, much attention has been focused on how the world can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By taking the bold step to obtaining all of their electricity from wind power, Southwestern University becomes a leader in showing the nation how it can be done,” said Paul Rowland, executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Wind-generated power will be provided by the City of Georgetown through an agreement with AEP Energy Partners, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, one of the largest electric utilities in the United States. The electricity will come from the Southwest Mesa and South Trent Wind Farms in West Texas. These two wind farms have a total of 151 wind turbines, each of which can generate between 0.7 to 2.3 megawatts of electricity. Power is conveyed through transmission lines to customers such as the City of Georgetown.

Officials from Southwestern and the city signed the contract Jan. 12. The initial contract is for five years and is renewable through 2028. Southwestern President Jake B. Schrum said the agreement will help Southwestern toward its long-term goal of being carbon neutral, which it promised to work toward last February when he signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. This document formally commits campuses to eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions over time and educate students about climate neutrality.

“This is a historic moment for Southwestern,” Schrum said. “We hope Southwestern will be an inspiration to other universities to advance sustainability.” He noted that Southwestern students were the ones who initiated the conversation with city officials, and after that, both the city and the university worked to bring the idea to reality.

Jim Briggs, Georgetown’s assistant city manager for utility operations, said Southwestern is one of the city’s largest customers, with energy needs that are equivalent to the demand from 450 homes. The agreement establishes a fixed energy cost for Southwestern that is competitive with the city’s standard electric rates.

Briggs noted that the agreement also helps the city move toward the goal of meeting 30 percent of the city’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. “This is the kind of renewable energy partnership we want to expand in the future. This is only a beginning,” Briggs said.

Richard Anderson, vice president for fiscal affairs at Southwestern, noted that having its utility price locked in for the next 18 years will help the university considerably in its strategic planning.

“We’re proud of this partnership with the City of Georgetown,” Anderson said. “With this wind energy agreement, we are making a strong statement reflecting Southwestern’s commitment to conservation and sustainability, and our concern for the environment for the long term.”

Southwestern has undertaken a variety of other sustainability initiatives in the past year, including the following:  

·         It has completed two “green” buildings. The Wilhelmina Cullen Admission Center received Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and Southwestern will be applying for LEED certification for the new Prothro Center for Lifelong Learning, which will open in March.

  • Small compost bins have been placed near all the residence halls and a large compost bin that will handle waste from the cafeteria has been installed north of the greenhouse.  
  • The student dining area went “trayless” in the fall of 2009.
  • Southwestern students, faculty and staff members have planted an organic community garden behind the Studio Arts Building.
  • Southwestern students organized their third environmental summit for area high school students in 2009.

For more on Southwestern’s sustainability efforts, visit www.southwestern.edu/sustainability.