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UCO makes environmental switch to wind power

EDMOND, Okla. (AP) _ The University of Central Oklahoma will be the first university in the state powered totally by wind energy, a move that could save the school more than $250,000.

Officials decided earlier this month to buy UCO's 26 million to 27 million kilowatt hours per year in the form of wind power from Edmond Electric.

Now, the fuel surcharge on electricity is 2.8 cents per kilowatt hour but for wind energy the surcharge is 1.8 cents per kilowatt hour, UCO Executive Vice President Steve Kreidler said.

``That used to be the other way around,'' Kreidler said. But he said the price for wind power may not stay lower than electricity from other sources.

``It does the right thing for the environment, and the more wind power we buy the higher the demand. That's actually a natural resource that Oklahoma has plenty of.''

The university, which is Edmond Electric's largest customer, agreed in October 2004 to have about 5 percent of its electricity generated by wind power. Kreidler said university officials hoped to eventually reach about 50 percent, but fuel price increases changed their strategy.

Now the university can save money and decrease dependence on fossil fuels even more, he said.

``We were on this path already and right now it makes financial sense,'' Kreidler said.

The university started to move toward more environmentally friendly operations a few years ago when officials had heating and cooling systems replaced. The new systems used less energy, saved the university money and were better for the environment, Kreidler said.

Officials decided then to pursue more environmental projects such as recycling, landscaping and even replacing old toilets to cut water use by 20 million gallons a year, he said.

``It may seem like a small thing but at a big university, it adds up,'' he said.

Employees also convert grease from the university cafeteria into diesel fuel, which is then used to run equipment such as tractors on the campus.

Edmond Electric, which is owned by the city of Edmond, started offering wind power to customers in early 2004. So far about 2 percent of customers are on the Pure and Simple plan, said Charlie Burgett, Edmond Electric director.

The Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority supplies Edmond Electric's wind power from a wind farm near Woodward.
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