The University of Arizona has partnered with Tucson Electric Power for the purchase of solar and wind power, an agreement that will offset a large portion of campus greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2020.
If the agreement is approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission, the UA will become the largest research university in the country to have a plan to replace the entirety of its “scope two” emissions with green energy. Scope two emissions are greenhouse gases that result from the generation of electricity, heat or steam purchased from a utility provider.
The UA’s utility operations made up more than 70% of its emissions in 2017, 31.6% from electricity and 40% from gas and propane, according to the university’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report.
The university’s overall emissions have decreased by 12.8% since 2015, but officials say this agreement will take sustainability efforts on campus to the next level.
“We made a commitment to become a more sustainable campus, and now we have in place a system that will make a significant impact in just two years,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins in a statement.
“I believe it is up to higher education institutions to lead the way on clean energy solutions,” Robbins said. “This university is already a leader in environmental and sustainability research, and we found a partner in TEP that shares our commitment to make effectual change. We have a forward-looking team to make these changes a rapid reality.”
Through the development of two new renewable energy projects, the Wilmot Energy Center and the Oso Grande Wind Project, TEP will provide the university with affordable access to solar and wind energy for 20 years.
The Wilmot Energy Center, expected to be in operation by December 2020, will become TEP’s largest dedicated renewable energy resource with a 100-megawatt solar array and a 30 MW energy storage system.
The Oso Grande Wind Project, also expected to be in service by the end of 2020, will generate up to 247 MW of energy for the university and other TEP customers with the use of 61 turbines on 24,000 acres of land near Roswell, New Mexico.
With these projects, TEP is expecting to provide more than 28% of its power from renewable sources by 2021.
“We’re proud to support the ambitious renewable energy goals of President Robbins and the University of Arizona, which are consistent with our own aspirations,” said TEP President and CEO David G. Hutchens. “We’re working together with our customers to build a sustainable energy future for our community.”
TEP and UA climate experts will also work together to develop measurable carbon-reduction goals that will help guide the university’s long-term resource development plans.
“Southern Arizona is one of the fastest warming areas in America, and anything we do to slow it down helps us at home,” said UA Office of Sustainability Director Trevor Ledbetter. “It is our responsibility to be a leader in this space and to do so alongside our community, and this project is a significant step in the right direction.”
As a member of the University Climate Change Coalition, an organization committed to reducing climate-changing emissions and improving research on climate change policy, the UA also recently expressed support for its Research for Policy Platform. Under this platform, the university will research urgent climate change policy issues and provide recommendations for outcomes.