For several years now, Duquesne University has used a cogeneration plant driven by waste heat from its heating and cooling facility to cover 80 percent of its electricity needs. The remaining 20 percent was supplemented through wind power. About one third of that wind power was generated in Pennsylvania, the rest was from out of state.
Starting this month, the university has switched to getting all of that wind energy from sources within Pennsylvania. That energy plan, said university officials, makes the campus unique.
"The fact that we generate and capture that energy that's usually wasted up the stack, we capture that, so our process is 70 percent efficient, compared to power plants that are only 35 percent efficient," said George Fecik, executive director of facilities management at Duquesne.
Now that all of the university's wind power will come from within Pennsylvania, Fecik said that will help support the growth of wind power in the state, and boost local economies. Since switching to renewable energy, Fecik added that there have been no problems with reliability.
"Price-wise it is a little more expensive, but that price is coming down. One reason we didn't purchase Pennsylvania wind in the past is it was three times what other wind power was at one point, but now it's competitive with wind power from other sources," he said.
The Duquesne campus was the first in the state to be recognized with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Award, and has received four consecutive EPA awards for being the greenest energy user in the A-10 conference. The university calculates that it is keeping more than 11 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from being produced each year through its electricty plan. That is the equivalent of the emissions produced by 1,096 passenger cars in one year.