Despite pressure from students for the University to start using wind power, officials said last week that GW has no plans to utilize the renewable power source.
Earlier this semester, Free the Planet, GW’s environmental activist student organization, launched a campaign to encourage the University to adopt 5 percent of its energy from renewable wind sources.
GW currently gets energy from the Potomac Electric Power Company, which generates the majority of its electricity from coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear generation, according to the PEPCO Web site. PEPCO also gives GW 1 percent of its energy from renewable sources such as solar and hydro power.
Doug Spengel, manager of Energy and Environmental Programs for GW, said switching to wind energy would not be cost-effective.
“GW has entered into a long-term contract with another supplier that offered more favorable rates,” Spengel wrote in an e-mail. “To date, the wind energy price quotes that GWU has received were approximately 30 percent more than energy from other sources.”
Spengel declined to provide specific numbers, but the switch would cost about $82,000, according to Community Energy, a regional wind power supplier.
Spengel said Community Energy, based in Pennsylvania, has contacted GW’s administration regularly over the past few years. He said the company is currently reaching out to Free the Planet.
Tyler Van Fleet, co-president of Free the Planet, said using wind power would “improve community health, community relations, air quality and reduce fossil fuel dependency.” She added that purchasing 5 percent of energy from Community Energy would offset more than 7 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, the equivalent of not driving a car about 9 million miles.
“(W)e have choice when it comes to where our electricity comes from,” Van Fleet said.
Van Fleet said her organization is pushing for GW to engage in a five-year contract with Community Energy to purchase energy certificates. The certificates, which would cost GW $82,000, in addition to its current energy costs, would deliver energy to the District from the company’s Mid-Atlantic Power Grid.
Byron Woodman, an account manager for Community Energy, said his company will continue to pressure GW to bring wind power to campus. He said he thinks working with Free the Planet will be successful.
“The student initiatives that have worked well on other campuses have been those that have had students who had a desire for wind energy,” Woodman said. “Here at GW, right in D.C., there is a lot of focus on renewable energy because of the air quality.”
Free the Planet is collecting signatures on a resolution urging GW to adopt wind power. The group will present its resolution to the Student Association at the SA’s Tuesday night meeting.
“Our hope is to get the SA behind us,” Van Fleet said. “They can help us convince the administration and make (wind power) a reality on campus.”
Woodman said more than 50 universities nationwide purchase a percentage of wind power from Community Energy, including American, Catholic, Drexel and Temple universities and the University of Pennsylvania.
The University of Colorado at Boulder was the first college in the country to commit to wind energy, in the spring of 2000, said Ghita Carroll, program coordinator for the UC Boulder Environmental Center.
Carroll said the University currently powers one of three student-run buildings with wind energy. The university’s contact expires later this year, but Carroll said officials hope to power the three buildings after re-negotiations.
“It has worked wonderfully, flawlessly,” she said.
Some students said they hope GW switches to wind power.
Junior Alex Rochestie, a former SA presidential candidate, used wind power as a platform in his campaign.
“It is a win for the students who have environmental concerns, and it is obviously a win for the world which will be cleaner as a result our using energy alternatives,” Rochestie said.
However, some students said GW should not spend money on wind energy amid University-wide budget cuts.
“There are other places that the University could put that kind of money such as in the Funger renovations and increased housing,” freshman Matt Fritz said. “It’s an ideal idea that could work, just not at this date.”
This article appeared in the March 29, 2004 issue of the Hatchet.