Penn State creates carbon emissions task force

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solar panel close up

Pennsylvania State University is ahead of schedule to meet its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now university President Eric Barron wants the university to be more aggressive.

Barron announced the creation of the Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force on Sept. 3.

According to a university press release, Penn State cut its carbon emissions by more than 35%, putting it ahead of schedule to meet the goal of reducing emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The task force was formed to  “reconsider Penn State’s greenhouse gas emissions goal with a view toward setting a more aggressive target as well as a revised timeframe,” according to the university. The group – made up of faculty, staff and graduate and undergraduate students – began meeting this summer and aims to share recommendations by the end of the year.

Energy use is the largest driver of the university’s greenhouse gas emissions, said task force co-chair Robert Cooper, senior director of energy and engineering in Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant.

The 35% reduction in emissions since 2005 came primarily from energy efficiency strategies, like installing equipment for combined heat and power, which produces heat and energy from a single power source; investing in building energy conservation projects; investing in renewable energy; and switching to more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Penn State partnered with Lightsource BP in 2019 to buy 70 megawatts of power from three solar farms in Franklin County. The solar farms supply 25% of the university’s statewide annual electricity needs.

A few areas for the task force to explore include thermal energy needs, travel and transportation, farm and related operation and potential effects of institutional policy changes. 

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