WWU Clean Energy Program receives $15,000 PSE grant

The Puget Sound Energy Foundation recently donated $15,000 to support Western Washington University’s innovative new Clean Energy Program, which the university is in the process of designing to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding green energy economy.

“We appreciate the generosity and vision of the Puget Sound Energy Foundation,” Western Provost Catherine Riordan said in a press release. “This new program will help position our state to lead the nation in the next wave of economic expansion and innovation.”

Western’s Clean Energy Program will integrate research and outreach with a unique interdisciplinary curriculum. The Puget Sound Energy Foundation donation via the WWU Foundation will support development of the program’s interdisciplinary curriculum and new courses.

“Education and environmental stewardship are two of the Puget Sound Energy Foundation’s principal targets for support,” Andy Wappler, chairman of the nonprofit foundation, said in the press release. “This new academic program at Western meets both of those funding priorities. What’s more, the program’s faculty and students will help to create a greener energy future – and that benefits everyone.”

The Clean Energy Program will continue Western’s tradition of research innovation, environmental leadership and commitment to undergraduate education. Three colleges within the university ­– the College of Business and Economics, Huxley College of the Environment, and the College of Sciences and Technology – have collaborated to produce a program that harnesses expertise from throughout the campus. All three colleges are nationally recognized for their outstanding educational programs and demonstrated educational excellence.

This multi-college program will support interdisciplinary learning while fostering an approach to problem solving that encourages cross-discipline thinking. Research will cover a wide range of investigation related to clean and renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Planning for the program includes future bachelor’s degrees as well as a minor in science and technology and a minor in policy, economics and business. Graduate degrees in both the sciences and arts also are being considered. Students will gain core competencies in energy-related science, policy, technology, economics and business and have opportunities to participate in energy research with nationally recognized faculty mentors.

The WWU Foundation is currently seeking donors who are interested in funding named endowments to support the program. The university is also planning to seek state and federal permanent public funding.

Both Western and Puget Sound Energy are nationally recognized leaders in the area of clean and renewable energy. Western, which now is 17th on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the nation’s top 20 green energy purchasers in higher education, purchases 100 percent of its electrical energy from green sources via renewable energy credits (RECs). Western buys its electricity from PSE and has worked in partnership with PSE on promotion of renewable energy.

In 2010 PSE was ranked by American Wind Energy Association as the country’s second-largest utility producer of wind power. PSE owns and operates two large wind-power operations in Washington: the Hopkins Ridge Wind Facility near Dayton, and the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility near Ellensburg. Their combined 430 megawatts of generating capacity is sufficient, on average, to meet the power needs of about 130,000 homes.

The utility currently is building its third and largest wind farm, the 343-megawatt Lower Snake River Wind Project near Pomeroy, Wash. PSE also is involved in other renewable-energy initiatives, such as generating electricity from the methane gas emitted by King County’s Cedar Hills Landfill, and partnering with northwest Washington entrepreneurs who are generating electricity from dairy cow waste.

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