Cal Poly is going green, and it has nothing to do with school spirit. The California State University system has set a goal of reducing energy use and utilizing more green power on all its campuses statewide to create a more sustainable system and prevent harm to the environment.

The CSU system ranked second on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of top 10 College and University Green Power Partners, and made the top 25 list as the nineteenth largest national green power purchaser. The No. 1 College and University Green Power Partner in the U.S. is University of Pennsylvania.

The CSU system is being recognized for the voluntary purchase of more than 75 million kilowatt-hours of green power, which is enough energy to power more than 6,100 average American homes each year. Using national average utility emissions rates, this same purchase is about equal to avoiding the release of more than 105 million pounds of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of emissions from over 10,000 passenger cars.

“We are proud to be on the EPA’s top 25 overall list and top 10 list of college and university purchasers. Purchasing green power is part of CSU’s Energy & Sustainability Policy and underscores our commitment to reduce the impact of global warming, helping achieve our energy independence goal and providing diversity in our energy supply,” said Len Pettis, Chief of Plant, Energy and Utilities for the CSU system in a press release.

Both lists are put together annually to highlight which green power partners have purchased the most energy through the end of September. Green power makes up about 13 percent of the CSU system’s electricity, according to the EPA Web site.

Green power is defined as, “electricity that is partially or entirely generated from entirely environmentally friendly resources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, biomass, and low-impact hydro,” according to a CSU system press release. The CSU system purchases green power for 16 of its 23 campuses, including Cal Poly, in the form of biomass, geothermal and wind from APS Energy Services.

Cal Poly has made significant changes in the last few years to use more green power in compliance with the CSU system’s goals and in hopes of becoming a more independently sustainable campus. This past summer Cal Poly Facility Services, Facilities Planning and Capital Projects, and the Sustainable Advisory Committee put out the 2006 Biennial Progress Report detailing progress made in campus planning, development and efforts to become a greener campus.

The first progress report was released in 2004 as a response to the Tallories Declaration signed by Cal Poly President Warren Baker the same year. The declaration recognizes university leaders from around the world as having major roles in the education, research, policy formation and information exchange necessary to address problems of environmental pollution, degradation and depletion of natural resources.

According to the 2006 Biennial Progress Report, approximately 27,000 light fixtures were refitted campus wide in the past few years, along with other small measures, to contribute to a more than 13 percent reduction in electricity and natural gas use.

In 1999, Cal Poly competed the “Utilidor” project, upgrading outdated boilers and chillers to a single central system for heating and cooling placed in vaults underneath the sidewalks at the core of campus. This single project reduced campus use of natural gas by about 30 percent, according to the 2006 Facility Services Progress Report.

Facilities has also made big changes with their fleet of campus vehicles in an effort to improve air quality and decrease reliance on gasoline. By 2005, more than 18 percent of the fleet had been converted to electric or other alternative fuel vehicles.

The Poly Canyon Village student housing development, which is scheduled to open for the 2008-09 academic year, will be equipped with a co-generation plant that will produce electricity on site by burning natural gas. According to the 2006 progress report, the resulting “waste” from the process will be used to produce hot water for the entire 2,700-bed complex.

“I think it’s really great that Cal Poly, which isn’t viewed as the most progressive school, is making positive changes. Finding alternative power sources is the only way we can ensure a more sustainable future,” said Vanessa Mathews, membership coordinator for Poly Greens, the Green Party club on campus.

The EPA’s Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program that aims to increase the use of green power among leading U.S. organizations. Currently, they have more than 600 partners, purchasing more than 6.8 billion kilowatt-hours of green power.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *