$15K from Puget Sound Energy Foundation boosts WWU's new Clean Energy Program

From left: Brian Burton, dean of the College of Business and Economics at Western Washington University; Jerry Thon, president of the Western Foundation Board of Directors; Phil Thompson, assistant professor in the WWU Department of Economics; Catherine Riordan, WWU provost; and Andy Wappler, chairman and president of the Puget Sound Energy Foundation Board of Directors.

Western Today staff

The Puget Sound Energy Foundation today 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,” said Western Provost Catherine Riordan. “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,” said Andy Wappler, chairman of the nonprofit foundation. “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. Graduates of the program will be uniquely prepared to enter the workforce as leaders, equipped with the knowledge, skills and applied expertise demanded by this dynamic and evolving sector of the global economy.

The WWU Foundation is currently seeking donors who are interested in funding named endowments to support the program. Interested donors should please contact Manca Valum, director of Development for the program. The University is also planning to seek state and federal permanent public funding. The vision is a publicly supported and privately enhanced program that provides the highest possible return on the public’s investment.

Both Western and Puget Sound Energy are nationally recognized leaders – and partners – 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, annually purchases 100 percent of its electrical energy from green sources via renewable energy credits. Western, which purchases its electricity from PSE, has worked in partnership with PSE on promotion of renewable energy.

PSE in 2010 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-MW Lower Snake River Wind Project-Phase I, near Pomeroy. 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-herd waste.

Puget Energy, the parent company of Puget Sound Energy, created the Puget Sound Energy Foundation in 2006 to continue its legacy of leadership and support of worthy, community-based programs. The foundation makes charitable contributions to qualifying 501(c)(3) nonprofits to help support a broad range of community programs, with a special focus on initiatives that promote economic and environmental sustainability within PSE’s service territory and in other areas where the utility produces or purchases energy in the Pacific Northwest. None of the Puget Sound Energy Foundation funds come from utility customers.