OU partners with OG&E to seek renewable energy

Wednesday, September 10th 2008, 7:04 pm
By: News 9

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

NORMAN, Okla. -- The University of Oklahoma is out to harness an energy source that blows freely all over the state.

Meeting in Tulsa Wednesday, OU Regents approved what they're calling an historic renewable energy agreement with OG&E.

The centerpiece of the agreement was formally announced in Norman Wednesday afternoon.
Adorned with green balloons and green ties, OU is going green in a big way.

"The University of Oklahoma, Norman campus, will purchase, under this agreement, 100 percent of the electricity, which it purchases on this campus, from wind power by the year 2013," OU President David L. Boren said.

OU will purchase all that power from a new OG&E wind farm under construction near Woodward. It will be called the OU Spirit Wind Farm. OG&E's CEO said wind power will be a win-win situation for all.

"It reduces the fossil fuel that we burn in our power plants, which in turn improves our environment by reducing the emissions," OG&E CEO Pete Delaney said. "As well as reducing emissions, improving the environment, it reduces our dependence on oil imports."

The OU-OG&E partnership holds out promise of great things to come. But OU is already deeply involved in research into renewable fuels.

In one chemical engineering lab, research is underway into different types of biomass that can be converted into diesel fuel.

"One of those sources of fuels might be vegetable oils or natural oils; we're looked at how those can be catalytically converted into premium diesel that goes right into your diesel engines now," OU Chemical Engineer Dr. Lance Lobban said.

OU is also involved in research that aims at converting switch grass into fuel. But the signers of the wind agreement believe it is unprecedented in the U.S.

"This is a day in which history is being made," Boren said.

Boren predicts a future of 15,000 new jobs in Oklahoma--all fueled by the wind that comes sweeping down the plain.

OU said there may be a small increase in cost over current energy supplies with the new agreement at the beginning.