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University of Oklahoma, OG&E tout wind power partnership

BY SILAS ALLEN Published: February 19, 2013

— A month after completing the switch to using renewable energy, the University of Oklahoma's electric bill hasn't gone up noticeably, the school's facilities director said.

Brian Ellis, the university's director of facilities management, said savings from energy efficiency upgrades have offset the premium the university pays for wind power and increases from campus growth.

The university signed an agreement with Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. in 2008 to buy all of its purchased power from renewable sources by the beginning of this year.

As a part of that agreement, OG&E built the OU Spirit Wind Farm, a 10,000-acre farm near Woodward.

The farm features 44 wind turbines and produces enough electricity to power the equivalent of 25,000 homes.

Under the deal, OU agreed to buy its power from OG&E. With that purchase, OU receives renewable energy credits at the rate of one credit for each 10,000-kilowatt-hour block of power, OG&E spokeswoman Kathleen O'Shea said.

Those credits may then be traded or sold.

OU receives about 85 percent of the renewable energy credits generated by the farm, O'Shea said.

The university pays a premium for those credits. But that cost is offset by savings from the university's energy efficiency program, which includes replacing exterior lightbulbs to reduce wattage, upgrading air-conditioning systems and installing motion detectors on campus vending machines to allow them to shut down when not in use.

When OU officials signed the agreement with OG&E in 2008, about 10 percent of the university's power came from renewable sources. The university began phasing in its renewable energy plan over a five-year period, with 90 percent of last year's purchased power being made up by wind power, he said.

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