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Correction: Univ. of Arizona, Univ. of Queensland, & Others Beat Stanford To 100% Clean, Renewable Electricity

I recently wrote about Stanford University’s commitment to go 100% renewable when it comes to electricity. The university claimed to be the “first research university to use 100% renewable electricity.” Being a research university, I assumed that Stanford had done its research. Also, I figured it was well aware of the university landscape when it comes to renewable energy use. It turns out, however, that I assumed too much.

In fact, if I had just looked into our archives a bit, I could have found that the University of Arizona beat Stanford by about a year and a half. Thanks to longtime reader and cleantech leader Benjamin Nead for reminding us of this story and sharing a link to the university’s own December 2019 news story about this commitment.

University of Arizona is Solar & Wind Powered

At the time, the University of Arizona said that it was the largest clean, renewable energy agreement between a university and a utility. Of course, not all of the electricity could be generated on campus, but the plan was: “The University of Arizona and Tucson Electric Power, or TEP, will embark on a 100% clean energy project to provide the campus with enough emission-free power from new solar, storage and wind systems to serve all its purchased power needs for 20 years.” The goal was to achieve 100% renewables within just two years, and it has reportedly done so. Stanford University’s aim is to achieve the same next summer, 2022.

“We have been researching a way to implement 100-percent green energy, and this deal gets us there in one fell swoop,” said Chris Kopach, assistant vice president of Facilities Management at the University of Arizona. “This project provides capacity for consistent and reliable power with capacity for decades of growth in Tucson and on campus; the kind of capacity needed by a Research I university.”

University of Queensland Was #1 in World (Or Not)

Stepping outside of the USA, another reader pointed out that the University of Queensland (UQ) has been 100% solar powered for a while. “UQ is powering to 100 per cent renewable energy as the first major university in the world to generate all its electricity needs from its own renewable energy facility with UQ’s Warwick Solar Farm.” The Warwick Solar Farm opened in July 2020. (Somehow, we didn’t cover that story.)

The University of Queensland holds some other solar bragging rights as well. “UQ is also home to Australia’s largest solar research facility at Gatton campus with over 37,000 panels in 3 separate arrays enabling research into different technogies [sic],” the university’s website claims.

So, yes, at least a couple of universities beat Stanford University to 100% clean, renewable electricity.

Georgetown is 130%

Georgetown University is well beyond 100% renewables for its electricity needs. It reportedly generates 130% of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources! At least 15 other colleges and universities also get more than 100% of their electricity needs fulfilled by renewables. Here are the top 10:

Table courtesy of Environment America report.

40+ Universities & Colleges At 100%+ Renewable Electricity

“Of 127 colleges that reported data to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Power Partnership, 42 are now meeting at least 100 percent of their electricity needs with renewable energy generated by the university or purchased through power purchase agreements (PPAs) or renewable energy certificates (RECs). Seventy-six colleges are getting at least 50% of their energy from renewables,” a 2020 report from Environment America states. Granted, some people may not want to include renewable energy certificates (RECs) in such a comparison/analysis, but there are clearly plenty of colleges and universities that are at or above 100% renewable electricity even without RECs.

Then there are also schools leading on use of renewables for heating, cooling, and other non-electric uses; and schools that lead on electric vehicle adoption. Interestingly, when it comes to the latter, a notable art and design college in my home city is #1 and I didn’t even realize it!

top universities colleges renewable energy heating cooling

Table courtesy of Environment America report.

top universities colleges EV adoption

Table courtesy of Environment America report.

For a much more comprehensive look at cleantech adoption and leadership among American universities and colleges, visit Environment America or jump straight into its full 43-page report, America’s Top Colleges for Renewable Energy 2020: Who’s Leading the Transition to 100% Renewable Energy on Campus? Perhaps we’ll have a 2021 version of the report soon.

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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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