Office of Physical Plant

Penn State recognized for green power leadership

University enters the ranks of the EPA’s "Top 30 College and University" list of green power users

Solar panels at Penn State's Sustainability Experience Center bask in the sunlight. The nine-acre site, coordinated by the Sustainability Institute, lies on the edge of Penn State’s University Park campus on Porter Road and provides a living laboratory for students, faculty and the community to research and learn about sustainability. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently recognized Penn State in its latest Top 30 College & University List of the largest green power users from the Green Power Partnership (GPP). Penn State ranks No. 14 nationally and No. 2 in the Big Ten in terms of total kilowatt-hours (kWh) used of green energy. 

Penn State uses more than 106 million kWh of renewable energy annually, which represents more than 33% of its operations’ total power needs and according to the EPA, is equivalent to the annual electricity use of nearly 10,000 average American homes. Penn State’s choice to use green power helps advance the voluntary market for green power, as well as the development of those sources. The EPA defines green power as electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact, small hydroelectric sources.

The bulk of the University’s green power purchasing comes from its partnership with Lightsource bp to procure 70-megawatts of solar-generated energy that came online in 2020, which alone provides nearly 25% of the University’s total state-wide energy needs. Other green power sources the University employs include the Orchard Road Solar site near the University Park campus, along with purchased small hydroelectricity. 

In 2005, Penn State set its initial carbon emissions reduction goal of 17.5% by 2012. After achieving the initial target, a 35% reduction goal was set for 2020, which the University successfully achieved last year, in part, due to the purchasing of renewable energy. Other initiatives also played a significant role in meeting the goal, including retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient; utilizing more fuel-efficient and electric fleet vehicles; and making significant improvements to the University’s utility systems. 

“We are proud to be recognized by the EPA for our commitment to renewable energy,” said Bill Sitzabee, vice president of facilities management and planning and Penn State’s chief facilities officer. “By making the choice to increase our renewable energy investments, Penn State reduces its carbon emissions, while also sending a clear message that using green power is smart business.”

By moving the needle in the voluntary green power market, Penn State and other Green Power Partners are helping to reduce the negative health impacts of air emissions including those related to ozone, fine particles, acid rain and regional haze.

“This list of the largest users of green power across the nation is proof that good business practices can also benefit the environment,” said James Critchfield, program manager of EPA's Green Power Partnership. “EPA applauds the leading organizations in the Green Power Partnership’s Top Partner Rankings for their notable commitment to expanding their use of green power and protecting the environment.”

Penn State has a goal of reducing its greenhouse gas outputs to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050; however, earlier this year, Penn State announced the formation of a Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force to reconsider this goal with a view toward setting a more aggressive target as well as a revised timeframe. 

Last Updated November 03, 2021