Weber State University is moving toward carbon neutrality and a long-term environmentally sustainable campus.

In 2007, WSU joined the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, known as the ACUPCC program. Joining this program committed WSU to a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by the year 2050.

The university recognizes that this is an ambitious goal, but it has concluded that, given adequate resources for investment in sustainability and energy reduction coupled with behavioral and attitudinal changes among students, staff and faculty, it will be achievable.

Attaining carbon neutrality means reducing the use of all forms of carbon-based fuels to a net zero carbon emissions by achieving a balance between the amount of carbon emitted and offsets achieved by using sustainable energy techniques or by sequestering carbon output.

The mission of the WSU Energy & Sustainability Office and the Sustainability Practices and Research Center, or SPARC, is to inform and educate WSU students, faculty, staff and the local and statewide communities of the need to ensure sustainability in our region.

The Office of Sustainability Energy reports that a milestone was reached with the completion of a compressed natural gas station.

The natural gas fuel station located near University Village. (Doug Manifold / The Signpost) Photo credit: Doug Manifold

“Natural gas vehicles fill the gap between gas/diesel and our ultimate long term goal of fully electric,” WSU Energy Manager Jacob Cain said.

Another project has been the installation of solar panels on the roof of the Public Safety building, the first all-electric building on the WSU campus. This 20 KW solar array supplies about 40 percent of the building’s energy needs.

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Solar panels on the roof of Public Safety Building. (Source: John Kowalewski)

Academic Sustainability Coordinator for SPARC Bonnie Christiansen reported that over the past year, the WSU Sustainability program has assisted 140 home owners in acquiring solar panels for their homes.

SPARC also assisted the Ogden Nature Center in acquiring a 57 KW solar system at the center. ONC Executive Director Mary McKinley said she was thrilled with the assistance that allowed ONC to add enough solar power to supply electricity to all of the buildings on the grounds.

McKinley also emphasized that reducing ONC’s carbon footprint was a major consideration in the decision to move forward with this project.

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Ogden Nature Center solar array on roof of LS Peery Education Center. (Source: Paul Burnett)

A major project on the WSU campus was the installation of 273 panels on the roof of the Facilities Management Building.

Justin Owens, the WSU Energy Manager, reports that this system is rated at 75 KW on the DC side and that the output is expected to offset the total demand of the building.

According to the WSU Climate Action Plan Progress Report for FY 2013/2014, over the past eight years, WSU has reduced electricity consumption by 24 percent, natural gas consumption by 15 percent and has reduced its total building energy consumption by 19.3 percent.

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Solar panels on the roof of FMB. (Source: Weber State University Facilities Management)

More solar electric projects, such as the FMB array and the small but important WSU solar powered golf cart, are necessary. Owens has suggested that construction will soon begin on a solar array project at the Davis campus that will “dwarf anything we’ve done so far.”

To attain its goal of carbon neutrality, WSU must continue to rely on the dedicated efforts of the Energy & Sustainability Office, the Sustainability Practices & Research Center, the Green Department Program, the Environmental Issues Committee and Environmental Ambassadors’ effort and feedback from the Sustainability Summit.

These efforts rely on the professional staff and on the entire university faculty and student body. The Green Team program supports and rewards offices and departments that take steps toward reducing their environmental footprint.

Students can contribute to these efforts through the Environmental Ambassadors Program, the Environmental Issues Committee and by participating in the annual Sustainability Summit. More information can be found online.

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