Western’s Bellingham campus now receives 100 percent of its energy from wind power from the new Skookumchuck Wind Facility as part of Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct program, which allows corporate and governmental customers to purchase 100 percent of their energy from a dedicated, local, renewable energy resource.
Energy from the wind farm, located on Weyerhaeuser timber land in Lewis and Thurston counties, enables Western to officially reduce its carbon footprint, as recognized by the state, by about a third, or approximately 11,000 tons.
In addition to Western, other participants in the groundbreaking PSE program include the cities of Bellingham, Bellevue, Olympia and Kirkland, King and Whatcom counties, Sound Transit, Port of Seattle, and corporations such as Starbucks, Target, Costco and REI.
The Skookumchuck Wind Facility, owned by Southern Power, is the largest wind farm in Western Washington and generates up to 137 megawatts from its 38 wind turbines, enough to power nearly 30,000 homes.
For many years, Western has appeared on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the top green energy purchasers in higher education. Western has annually offset 100 percent of its electrical consumption from green sources via purchases of renewable energy credits.
The genesis for Western’s renewable energy program began when a WWU student club, Students for Renewable Energy, set a goal of having Western offset all of its electrical energy from a 100-percent renewable source. To meet that goal they proposed a student initiative to implement a fee that would offset the cost of purchasing renewable energy credits.
The student initiative passed in a spring 2004 student election and the WWU Board of Trustees approved the student fee, then called the Green Energy Fee, which went into effect in 2005 and was aimed solely at purchasing renewable energy credits to offset 100 percent of campus electricity usage with green energy.
As the cost to purchase green energy declined, students voted in 2010 to renew the fee and expand the program by offering grants for innovative student-driven project proposals that fit within the mission and priorities of the program.
The student-funded Green Energy Fee later was renamed the Sustainability, Equity and Justice Fund to further highlight the social equity and justice dimensions of sustainability. It promotes sustainability by providing students with the opportunity to create and implement projects that positively impact environmental, social, health, and economic practices on Western’s campus and in the community.
Photo courtesy of Southern Power