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Western Washington University Powering Up To Renewable Energy

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Washington state ranks second in the nation in electricity generated from renewable resources.

But is this enough? By analyzing consumption estimates provided by the EIA, 58 percent or 1,296.4 trillion Btu’s of energy used in 2016 came from non-renewable sources such as natural gas or coal, while only 6.5 percent of energy used came from wind power [1,2].

This means Washington is producing a significant amount of renewable energy, but it’s not enough to provide the state with power sufficient enough to forego non-renewables. As the state still relies on non-renewable energy, necessary steps are being taken to make a full conversion to renewable energy sources such as wind.

In Washington’s Lewis County, construction for the Skookumchuck Wind Farm is about to begin. Proposed in 2016, the Skookumchuck Wind Farm project will help the state’s advancement towards a complete reliance on renewable energy resources.

Colorado-based RES Americas, a global renewable energy company, proposed to build a total of 51 turbines on property owned by Weyerhaeuser, which spans the Lewis and Thurston county line near the Skookumchuck Reservoir [3].

With 14 wind turbines planned in Thurston, 37 in Lewis, and a 20-year power-purchase agreement with Puget Sound Energy (PSE), the Skookumchuck Wind Farm has the potential to generate upwards of 176MW of energy at peak times to state residents [4].

The only piece missing in the project was the consumer – major consumers to be specific – so PSE reached out to Western Washington University as well as other large organizations and corporations to get on board with the renewable energy venture about to take place.

Western Washington University was contacted by PSE regarding the Skookumchuck Wind Project and was asked if they would opt-in to run the campus entirely on renewable energy. Western’s Office of Sustainability, Institute of Energy Studies, and Facilities Management then evaluated the PSE proposal and ran life-cycle cost analyses to determine long-term feasibility of the program.

By running these analyses, which looked at previous years’ expense reports, WWU’s energy consumption and PSE’s new energy charge credit, it was determined that participating in PSE’s renewable energy project would not only be cost effective for Western, but also help the state move entirely to renewable energies.

Construction is set to begin in December 2018 and anticipated to take 15 months to complete [4]. PSE has assured a start up by the end of July 2019 to all companies and organizations relying on the Skookumchuck Wind Farm for energy. Moreover, to ensure that energy generated by renewable sources is constant, PSE will provide supplementary power from baseload generators such as hydroelectricity to compensate for the intermittent nature of wind.

Although Washington is a leader in renewable energy production and major energy companies in the state are pushing large corporations to make the switch to 100 percent renewable energy, still more needs to be done before the state can consider itself environmentally “green.”

More corporations need to opt-in and become reliant solely on renewable energies, power plants operating on natural gas and coal need to be phased out, and new technologies need to be created to efficiently store energy from renewable sources.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a difficult and long process, but doing so is imperative to reach a sustainable future.

[1] https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=WA#tabs-1

[2] https://windexchange.energy.gov/states/wa

[3] https://www.theolympian.com/news/business/article182471101.html

[4] https://renewablenw.org/node/skookumchuck-wind-energy-project

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