University of Utah to get half its power from renewable sources under new deal with energy providers

Rocky Mountain Power will deliver electricity to the Salt Lake City campus from carbon-free energy providers Cyrq Energy and Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables.

(Tribune file photo) University of Utah students on campus.

The University of Utah is preparing to flip the switch on geothermal and solar energy for its Salt Lake City campus.

Under an agreement announced Tuesday, the U. will buy half its total electricity usage from carbon-free providers for the next 25 years, including 20 megawatts of geothermal power from Cyrq Energy and 10 megawatts of solar power from Berkshire Hathaway.

Rocky Mountain Power will deliver the electricity through its network, with the flow of energy expected to begin in late 2018 or early 2019, according to U. Sustainability Office spokeswoman Liz Ivkovich.

“We’re going to be investing in a geothermal plant that’s just coming online now,” said Ivkovich. “We’re helping to bring more renewable energy into the grid as well as reducing our own carbon footprint.”

Amy Wildermuth, the U.’s chief sustainability officer, said in a written statement that geothermal and solar energy are key components of Utah’s diverse array of power sources.

“To be part of a project like this demonstrates the practicality and affordability of these carbon-free energy sources,” Wildermuth said, “which we hope can serve as a model for others.”

Ivkovich said the use of geothermal and solar energy under the agreement will reduce the U.’s carbon emissions by 25 percent.

In 2008, the U. committed to a goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.

“This purchase is a huge step in that direction,” Ivkovich said.

Ivkovich said administrators are looking for additional ways to reduce the school’s carbon footprint, like incentivizing the use of bikes to cut down on vehicle traffic and the installation of solar panels on campus.

“We’re also working on a large study to determine how much of our energy we can actually produce here on campus,” she said, “and where those projects would be located.”

Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Dave Eskelsen confirmed the company’s role in the agreement, pending approval from the state’s Public Service Commission, which regulates Utah utilities.

“Customers of many types want more energy choices,” Eskelsen said, “particularly with regard to seeking out renewable kinds of energies.”