Campus News

Bowdoin to Purchase Renewable Energy Certificates from UPC Wind

Story posted March 24, 2008

Bowdoin and UPC Wind, an independent wind power developer, announced on March 24, 2008, that the UPC Wind affiliate that owns the Mars Hill wind project reached a three-year agreement under which that affiliate will provide the College with renewable energy certificates (RECs) from its Mars Hill wind project in northern Maine.

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Mars Hill wind project, photo courtesy of UPC Wind.

Bowdoin's decision to purchase RECs from the Mars Hill wind project — the only utility-scale wind farm currently operating in all of New England — stems from the College's desire to support local renewable energy projects.

Bowdoin in the News

S. Catherine Longley, Bowdoin's Sr. V.P. for Finance and Administration & Treasurer, was interviewed about the announcement by Maine Public Broadcasting Network reporter Barbara Carridi for a story that aired March 24, 2008, on Maine Things Considered. Listen to the segment here.

Bowdoin is currently offsetting approximately 70 percent of its campus electricity use with voluntary renewable energy certificates produced in Maine.

These voluntary REC purchases complement the green power already provided pursuant to Maine's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) law. For 2008, 31 percent of Bowdoin's competitive electric supply is from qualifying renewable sources bringing Bowdoin's total "green" electricity supply to 100 percent.

"Our primary focus has been and will continue to be switching to lower carbon fuels and increased energy efficiency, but as we seek to become carbon neutral, purchasing offsets are a necessity," explains S. Catherine Longley, Bowdoin's Sr. V.P. for Finance and Administration & Treasurer and chair of the College's climate commitment group.

Renewable Energy Certificates
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When a renewable energy facility operates, it creates electricity that is delivered into a vast network of transmission wires, often referred to as "the grid." The grid is segmented into regional power pools; in many cases these pools are not interconnected. To help facilitate the sale of renewable electricity nationally, a system was established that separates renewable electricity generation into two parts: the electrical energy produced by a renewable generator and the renewable "attributes" of that generation.

The renewable attributes or "green" attributes are sold separately as renewable energy certificates (RECs). Only one certificate may be issued for each unit of renewable electricity produced. The electricity that was split from the REC is no longer considered "renewable" and cannot be "double counted" and sold as renewable or zero emissions. With the purchase of RECs, the buyer is buying the renewable attributes (i.e. environmental benefits) of a specific amount and type of renewable energy generation.

The buyer will continue to receive a separate electricity bill from their utility and/or competitive supplier. The purchase of renewable certificates helps offset conventional electricity generation in the region where the renewable generator is located. The purchase also helps build a market for renewable electricity and may have other local and global environmental benefits such as reduced global climate change and regional air pollution.

To achieve Green-e Energy certification each supplier of renewable certificates is required to disclose the quantity, type and geographic source of each certificate. Green-e Energy also verifies that the renewable certificates are not sold more than once or claimed by more than one party.

"We are excited that the Mars Hill wind project allows us to procure wind RECs locally."

Bowdoin has a longstanding commitment to reducing its ecological footprint. In 2006 it signed the Maine Governor's Carbon Challenge and agreed to reduce emissions to 11 percent below 2002 levels by 2010. This goal was surpassed in 2007.

Bowdoin also joined the EPA Green Power Partner Program in 2006; the agreement announced on March 24, 2008, will ensure that Bowdoin remains in the EPA Program through 2010.

More recently Bowdoin signaled its intent to achieve carbon neutrality when President Barry Mills signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment.

UPC Wind owns and operates the 42-megawatt (MW) wind farm in the town of Mars Hill, the first utility-sized wind farm in Maine. It is also developing other wind farms in the state, including a 57-MW project near Danforth, Maine. That project is currently under construction and expected to be feeding power into the New England power grid before the end of 2008.

"Bowdoin has taken an important step toward 'carbon neutrality' and we're happy to help them achieve that goal," said Paul Gaynor, president and CEO of UPC Wind.

"Maine is quickly becoming the leading source for renewable energy in New England, and we're pleased to be able to deliver clean, renewable power to the region."

Renewable energy certificates are credits that individuals, institutions or businesses can buy to compensate for the amount of nonrenewable, greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels — such as coal, oil and natural gas — used in their vehicles, homes, offices or other facilities.

Buying the certificates helps subsidize the cost for a wind farm, solar farm or other renewable energy producer to generate an equivalent amount of clean energy and put it back into the power grid.

The RECs purchased by Bowdoin will be Green-e certified. Green-e Energy RECs signify superior, third-party-certified renewable energy generation, and are used by leading businesses and institutions to verify the quality of renewable energy sources.

UPC Wind, based in Newton, Mass., is an American-owned company with a proven track record of developing, owning and operating well-sited, community-friendly wind farms that increase energy independence.

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