The energy efficiency effort also has gained student support.
As part of the program, students can sign a “Crimson and Green” pledge to look for ways to conserve energy.
“It helps students think about the things they can be doing,” said Brooke Holleman, a green initiatives coordinator for the University of Oklahoma Student Association. “A lot of them are surprised by the good things they are already doing and the easy things they can do.”
OU's conservation effort began in 2007 when President David Boren signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, which pledged that the university would be carbon neutral by 2020.
Besides the building and lighting improvements, OU also recently completed a new $70 million power plant, boiler and chiller complex south of Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, across from the dormitories.
About 70 buildings on OU's main Norman campus receive heat and cooling from steam and chilled water. The new facility will replace the existing 1947-era plant near the middle of campus.
“Technology has come a long way since 1947,” Ellis said. “We're really excited about the capabilities and efficiencies the new plant is going to bring to our campus.”
When the plant is fully operational, it is expected to save the university about $1.5 million annually in energy costs and an additional $1 million to $2 million annually in operational and maintenance costs, Ellis said.
“Universities have long been innovators and leaders in industry and technology,” Ellis said. “By demonstrating some of the things that are possible, we can influence the community and country.”