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Below is the Energy section of the 2021 Ohio University Sustainability & Climate Action Plan. Click on the image to view a document with clickable hyperlinks.


Energy category, SCAP


Green Power partner

Ohio University is on the US EPA Green Power Partnership Top 30 College & University list for our purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs) for 50% of electricity used on all campuses.


Carbon Neutrality GoalsRenewable Energy On Campus | Energy FAQs | Heating Plant Transition


Check out the new mAppAthens: Energy and Biofuels Tour!

Carbon Neutrality Goals


Ohio University has committed to carbon neutrality by the year 2075. Reducing our energy consumption on campus is vital if we are to achieve that goal, as approximately 70% of carbon emissions on campus are due to electricity usage and heating/cooling buildings. More information about progress toward carbon neutrality can be found in the 2016 Climate Action Report and on our Climate webpage.


Renewable Energy Generation on the Athens Campus


Building 22/Ridges Solar Installment, 2.34 kW

Nine 260 W (DC) solar panels were installed next to Building 22 on the Ridges by Athena Solar Panels in October, 2016. The installation project was initially managed by a graduate student in Environmental Studies, Alex Burke, and data from the panels was used in his master's thesis. Output from the array is tracked through an Enphase Enlighten dashboard.

Solar panels in lawn field.


Storage Shed Solar Installment, 61.1 kW

This project was completed in 2012 and included: the installation of a 61.1 kW photovoltaic array by Dove Tail Solar and Wind on the roof of the storage shed adjacent to the Lausche Heating Plant; the installation of safety rails; and dedicated access to the roof in order to accommodate equipment maintenance. An architectural and engineering analysis concluded that structural upgrades to the storage shed were unnecessary. Output from the array is monitored through a sub-meter that is available for use for educational purposes.

Solar Panels in a Field.


Compost Facility Solar, 41.1 kW

Ohio University is home to the largest in-vessel compost system at any college or university in the nation. There are currently 41.1 kW of photovoltaic panels at the Compost Facility. A 10kW system was installed in 2008 by Dovetail Solar and Wind, and a 31.1kW system was installed in 2012. The compost facility also has Solar Thermal mounted on the roof of the second building. The Solar Thermal system heats the greywater used to clean the compost bins. Output from the arrays is hand tracked daily by compost operators.

Roof mounted Solar Panels and Field mounted.


OHIO Ecohouse, 2.4kW

The OHIO Ecohouse is a residential learning experience for off-campus-eligible students at Ohio University. A 2.4 kW was installed in 2005 by Dovetail Solar and Wind. The system is mounted on a tall frame in the yard of the Ecohouse since the house is situated in a holler and, therefore, does not have access to direct sunlight. On the opposite side of the house is a small Solar Thermal system that helps reduce the energy used for heating water for the residents. Output from the solar systems is tracked through EnergyCAP.

The PV array at the OHIO Ecohouse is mounted to a raised frame to optimize access to sunlight.
The Solar Thermal system at the OHIO Ecohouse helps reduce the amount of energy dedicated to heating the water used by the residents.


Innovation Center, 4 kW

The Innovation Center at Ohio University has one of the oldest and the most unique solar installation on campus. In 2003, Third Sun Solar and Wind Power installed 32 UniSolar PVL 124 W thin-film laminate panels to the Innovation Center roof. The laminates adhere directly to the metal roof of the Innovation Center and are visible as a darker color in the top left corner of the roof in the picture below. Generation from this array is tracked only by occasional manual reading of the meter located in the mechanical room of the Innovation Center.

Innovation Center solar array


Other Solar PV systems

Two other PV arrays were installed in 2003 by Third Sun Solar and Wind Power. The West Green Chilled Water Plant has a 2.4 kW PV array and Chubb Hall has a 0.33 kW PV array. The generation from these older arrays is not currently tracked by Ohio University.

All solar PV systems at Ohio University are grid-tied.

Energy FAQs

Note: These questions were originally asked and answered for the Davidson College Energy FAQ. They were created by Claire Naisby, who was an energy manager at Davidson and then a Building Systems Integration Manager at Ohio University.

  • Where does the electricity (kWh) at Ohio University come from?

Ohio University purchases most of its electricity from AEP Energy. AEP Energy is a Competitive Retail Electric Supplier (CRES) in Ohio. Learn about competition in retail electricity markets here. AEP Ohio provides transmission and distribution of the electricity. Ohio University also owns and operates more than 100 kW of grid-tied solar PV.

  • What is the energy resource mix used to generate Ohio University's electricity?

Ohio University purchases Green-e certified renewable energy certificates (RECs) for 50% of all electricity used on its Athens, Dublin and regional campuses. The RECs are purchased through AEP Energy and are from wind power. The other 50% of the electricity is purchased through AEP Energy from regional generation sources that use a mix of Coal fired power plants (33%), Nuclear power plants (37%), Natural Gas fired plants (25%), Wind (2.5%), Hydro (1.5%), Biomass (0.5%), and Other (0.5%) (projected data for 2017). AEP Energy's environmental disclosures which detail their generation sources can be found at this link.

  • What are the factors affecting electricity prices?

Power companies must have generation capacity equal to the maximum momentary demand of its customer base. At all other times, power companies have excess capacity. Ohio University controls a portion of its energy cost by managing its peak energy consumption by shifting loads in our West Green Chilled Water Plant; as the campus approaches its peak consumption each day, the facilities team utilizes the steam turbine chiller for as much load as possible instead of our electric chillers.

Learn more about the factors that affect electrical prices here and here. Ohio is a competitive choice state regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Learn how that affects the state's energy prices.

  • How much electricity does Ohio University use?

In the last three years Ohio University has purchased the following:

FY2017-18: 120,932,884 kWh

FY2018-19: 121,114,302 kWh

FY2019-20*: 106,155,635 kWh

*The COVID-19 pandemic began in early March 2020, and impacted electricity usage.

Weather, building square footage, and energy initiatives play a role in the electricity usage at Ohio University. Please see FAQ #6 for natural gas usage.

  • How is the campus heated and cooled?

The central steam plant, Lausche, houses four steam boilers that supply steam to most of the buildings on the Athens campus north of the Hocking River. The steam boilers are fueled by natural gas, and can use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel as a backup. Since Thanksgiving, 2015 coal has not been used in the steam boilers. Steam is used to heat buildings, generate domestic hot water, run absorption chillers and a condensing steam turbine chiller, and for some cooking, steam dryers, and laboratory research.

Much of the campus is cooled by chilled water that is generated by central chillers located in the West Green Chilled Water Plant (WGCWP) and as of spring 2021 by the Chilled Water Plant 3 (CWP3). WGCWP houses two electric chillers and one condensing steam turbine chiller (2500 tons of cooling each: a cooling ton is equal to the amount of heat needed to melt one ton of ice in 24 hours). The WGCWP plant delivers chilled water needed by the campus using 6 main chilled water pumps.

There are several buildings based cooling systems with their own chillers throughout campus. Some less modern buildings use window AC units.

The buildings have various kinds of Air Handling Units (AHUs) and Fan Coil Units (FCUs) and many other technologies that supply conditioned air to the occupied spaces.

  • How much natural gas does the heating plant purchase each year and where does it come from?

Ohio University purchases its natural gas for Lausche from IGS Energy, a privately-held, Ohio-based corporation which delivers all of natural gas to the campus through our local distributor, Columbia Gas.

In the past 3 years, the University has used the following amounts of natural gas and #2 ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (totals include both; the majority of the fuel usage is natural gas since the diesel fuel is only used as a backup):

FY2017-18: 715,564 MMBtu

FY2018-19: 748,076 MMBtu

FY2019-20*: 686,667 MMBtu

*The COVID-19 pandemic began in early March 2020, and impacted electricity usage.

  • Why does Ohio University no longer use coal for heating?

To satisfy climate action goals and an agreement with the local Sierra Club chapter, Ohio University converted from coal fired boilers to natural gas fired boilers in 2015. Natural gas fired boilers produce substantially less, about half, the carbon dioxide that is produced by a coal fired boiler of the same capacity. Ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel is used only as an emergency backup for periods when natural gas service is curtailed.

  • How is the temperature in campus buildings controlled?

Most of the academic and office buildings are controlled by an energy management and control system utilizing Direct Digital Controls (DDC). There are manual thermostats in several residence halls and independent residences. The manual controls are replaced with digital as the systems are upgraded.

The temperature of each occupied space in the buildings with DDC controls is set based on Ohio University Facilities Management set point guidelines. The energy management system maintains a balance between occupant comfort level, humidity control, and energy efficiency.

  • Which renewable energy systems are being considered for the campus?

Any and all renewable energy systems and purchases of renewable energy are being considered for the campus, including on-site and off-site solar farms, off-site wind farms, low-head hydroelectric power plants, solar thermal, geothermal systems, power purchase agreements (PPAs) and renewable energy certificates (RECs). The Sustainability Plan goal of 20% renewable energy generation by 2020 was met through REC purchases in 2015. The Sustainability and Climate Action Plans are currently being revised, and new renewable energy milestones will be outlined in the revised plans. Renewable energy systems will be evaluated for sustainability, and any chosen system will need to simultaneously benefit our campus community, the environment, and our economy.

  • Is Ohio University engaged in any ongoing energy projects?

Ohio University is always engaged in several energy projects. A few of the recent and ongoing projects are listed below:

  1. Sub-metering utilities at the building level. Electrical, steam, condensate, domestic water and chilled water meters projects are all underway
  2. Building control systems (DDC) integration and scheduling.
  3. Steam system shut-down. Each year in May, the steam generation and distribution system is shut down for maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. This is a yearly opportunity to practice our most important energy priority, conservation, by finding and repairing leaks and replacing inefficient equipment.
  4. A program for regular retro-commissioning of older buildings is in the planning stage. Buildings are currently commissioned when built or renovated, but older buildings need "tune-ups" to bring them to higher levels of energy efficiency.
  5. Lighting upgrades have been completed; Architecture, Design & Construction standards are being updated to reflect the most energy efficient lighting standards.
  6. Ohio University entered the 2016 Energy Star National Building Competition: Bootcamp! to raise awareness of energy usage and conservation on campus.
  • How can I save energy in my dorm, office, or home life?

The simplest way to save energy is energy avoidance (e.g., using natural lighting in the room instead of artificial lighting), but more tips are listed below. You can also find suggestions on the "Tips for Sustainability" page.

  • Use LED bulbs instead of incandescent.
  • Turn off lights when you leave a room.
  • Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer.
  • Do not use space heaters.
  • Turn off computer monitors and/or enable sleep mode on computers if you are away for more than 20 minutes.
  • Unplug all accessories including printers, speakers, and scanners when not in use.
  • If you don't need extra light while you're working on a computer, switch off desk lamps and overhead lights.
  • Consider plugging appliances into a power strip that can be easily switched off when you're leaving the office or dorm. Some power strips can detect when appliances are not in use and switch off automatically.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Ride a bike, walk, or take public transportation instead of driving a car.
  • Wash only full loads of clothes and air dry your clothes after washing them. Many electrical dryers use more energy during their 45 minute cycle than your room uses in a day.
  • In conditioned rooms keep windows closed, so we can help you better control the temperature and humidity in your room.
  • Dress for the weather.

Heating Plant Transition

Ohio University's first Climate Action Plan was approved on November 28, 2012. That document outlined a number of aggressive energy saving and resource reduction strategies including the institution's commitment to transition the Lausche Heating Plant to a lower emissions alternative by the year 2016. The Facilities Management staff at Ohio University created an aggressive plan even prior to the adoption of the Climate Action Plan for the heating plant to meet the 2016 transition target.
Beginning in April 2012, the university's Director of Energy Management was able to purchase large blocks of natural gas at significantly low costs. This allowed the university to enter into a pilot phase of using natural gas as the institution's primary on-campus stationary source. The pilot enabled the university to test the efficiencies of existing boilers and prepare additional projection data regarding fuel transitions. Additionally, it allowed the university to enter into initial training opportunities for the employees who would be responsible for implementing fuel transitions.
During the test period from April 15, 2012 to November 15, 2012, there were 1,392 heating degree days and 944 cooling degree days compared with 1,369 heating degree days and 941 cooling degree days from the prior year. This made the data very similar for comparison purposes. Based on standard emissions calculations, the following reductions were noted:
Heating Plant Transition Emissions Reduction
  2012 2011 % Emissions Reduction
CO2e 20,020.6 Metric Tons 41,680.8 Metric Tons 52% Reduction
SO2 219 lbs 1,201,721 lbs 99.98% Reduction
NOx 51,328 lbs 188,474 lbs 72.8% Reduction
CO 30,803 lbs 86,816 lbs 64.5% Reduction
Mercury 0.09 lbs 10.30 lbs 99.1% Reduction

The university also noted an efficiency increase in the plant while operating on natural gas. It was estimated that the Lausche Heating plant was between 15% and 20% more efficient when burning gas than coal; saving $260,000 in fuel costs during the pilot. The University applied for, and Ohio EPA granted, a permit to operate at 100% gas in 2012.

After almost three years of preparation, and the installation of temporary gas fired boilers, the University burned its last load of coal on Thanksgiving Day, 2015. Permanent gas fired boilers were installed in 2017, and began operation in 2018.