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March 23, 2009
Contact: Mike Krings, University Relations, (785) 864-8860.

KU group purchasing wind power to operate campus library

LAWRENCE — The winds that sweep across the Kansas plains will power Anschutz Library on the University of Kansas campus for the next year. A KU student organization this month began buying wind power credits from Westar Energy to offset fossil fuel power to the building.

The Student Environmental Advisory Board chose the library because of its central campus location and its familiarity to the university community. The board will host an informational event throughout the day March 25 at the library. Lorraine Harricombe, dean of libraries, and Doug Sterbenz, chief operating officer of Westar Energy, will speak at 10:30 a.m. Westar Energy will provide a working model wind turbine and students will be on hand to answer questions about renewable energy. The turbine and information will remain at the library through the first week of April.

The Student Environmental Advisory Board spearheaded a Student Senate initiative to reduce dependence on unsustainable energy in 2007. The measure, which calls for students to pay $1.25 per semester, was approved by more than a 90 percent margin. The initiative calls for KU to get 20 percent of its energy from sustainable sources by 2020. England Porter, a member of the board, said the initiative shows KU is serious about being environmentally responsible.

“We had an opportunity to support an industry we think will be vital in the future,” Porter said. “We feel it’s very important to support sustainability on campus and this is one way we can do that.”

The student fees will purchase wind energy credits equivalent to the amount of power it takes to supply the building for a year. The credits will be purchased from one of Westar Energy’s Kansas wind farms. The majority of energy in Kansas is produced from coal and natural gas. Porter said the wind energy they purchase is equivalent to eliminating the burning of more than 3 million pounds of coal and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 6 million pounds over the course of the year. A box of coal representing the amount necessary to provide one hour of energy for the library will be on hand as well. It costs approximately $147,000 per year to provide power for the building and an additional $28,000 to purchase wind energy credits to offset to fossil fuel use. Students will fund the additional $28,000.

Anschutz uses about 2.8 million kilowatt hours of energy each year. Figures provided by Westar Energy show that every 100-kilowatt-hour block of energy KU purchases is equivalent to eliminate the burning of 1,440 pounds of coal and the emission of 2,640 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. Using wind energy also saves about one gallon of water for each kilowatt hour of electricity produced by coal-powered generation.

Porter said the initiative will keep the fees in place for purchasing sustainable energy each semester. While students approved the measure, the entire university stands to benefit.

“The major benefit of this is the reduction in coal used,” she said. “For the university as a whole, I think it’s important for us to have pride in reducing our carbon footprint and show a commitment to using clean, sustainable, natural Kansas resources.”

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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