Penn State has developed multiple strategies to reduce its energy usage and Greenhouse Gas emissions.  Penn State is on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 35% (from its peak in 2005) by 2020. It has an even more ambitious target of an 85% reduction by 2050. See the complete GHG inventory. The University has also committed to a 20% reduction in building energy intensity by 2024 via the Department of Energy's Better Building Challenge

Energy is the largest contributor to Penn State's GHG emissions. The reduction strategy is based on a foundation of energy conservation, increased efficiency, including increased levels of Combined Heat and Power (CHP), targeted renewable purchases, awareness as well as programs in sectors other than Energy.  


Solar - In 2019, Penn State entered into a 25 year Solar PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with Lightsource BP. This 70 MW project is a utility-scale ground mounted solar array, using over 150,000 solar panels sited on roughly 500 acres across 3 locations in Franklin County near Penn State's Mont Alto campus. It will provide 25% of Penn State's state-wide electricity requirements. The project is expected to be in service in July 2020.

Penn State entered into a 25 year PPA with the Alternative Energy Development Group (AEDG) for a 2MW onsite solar array located at the University Park campus on Orchard Rd. This onsite project provides 1% of University Park's campus electricity needs.  The site began operation in April 2019.

In 2015, Penn State installed a solar array outside the main Office of Physical Plant facility to  provide power to charge its 100% electric vehicles. 

Hydroelectric PPA - In 2013, Penn State entered into a 10-year power purchase agreement with Mahoning Creek Hydroelectric Company. This 6 MW hydroelectric generating plant is located at the existing USACE dam on Mahoning Creek in PA. Penn State purchases all of the net electric output from the facility.

Energy Conservation 

The Office of Physical Plant Energy Program administers the behind-the-scenes mechanical, technical and operational aspects of energy efficiency and conservation in buildings and utilities. The Program consists of energy usage monitoring and benchmarking, performance contracting, energy efficiency and continuous commissioning.

Energy Savings Program - Penn State has invested in campus-wide energy conservation measures via its Energy Savings Program, which was originally modeled after the Pennsylvania Guaranteed Energy Savings Program. To date, the program has invested over $100 million with $79 million in program funding slated in the current Capital Plan. Penn State awards performance contracts to pre-approved firms for large energy projects (bundling multiple conservation measures) at any of the University locations or contributes funds that ensure energy efficiency in projects where energy is not necessarily the primary focus. In either case, the energy funds, including financing, are recovered through the avoided utility costs over a 10-year payback period. Multiple ESP projects have been completed at University Park as well as Abington, Altoona, Beaver, Berks, Brandywine, Erie, Fayette, Great Valley, Harrisburg, and Hazelton campuses.

Continuous Commissioning (CCx) - Commissioning occurs shortly after a building’s completion to verify if it is functioning according to its design objectives. Implemented in 1998, the University Park Continuous Commissioning Program (CCx) focuses on the re-commissioning, retro-commissioning, and maintenance of campus buildings. The goals of the program are to reduce energy costs and optimize building performance. CCx are “corrective” projects that typically have a 5-year simple payback. The program currently includes 2 CCx Engineers and (3) 2-person technical service crews.  

Energy Conservation Measures (ECM) - These projects are smaller in scope and are completed in E&G buildings. The average simple payback is less than 5 years. Solutions in the past have included: Improving Steam Traps, Installing Low-flow water fixtures, Upgrading Chiller/Chilled Water, Programming Thermostats, Reprogramming/ upgrading control systems, Tuning up systems and equipment, Switching fuel selection, Cleaning and flushing HVAC (heating, venting and air conditioning) piping, Installing room occupancy sensors and Winter Break shutdown. 

Green Design -Penn State has developed and implemented a University policy that guides sustainable elements in the design and construction of University facilities in accordance with USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). All new buildings at Penn State will be, at a minimum, LEED certified. Penn State's LEED Buildings

Coal to Natural Gas - On March 30, 2016, Penn State’s West Campus Steam Plant (WCSP) burned its final load of coal, bidding farewell to coal-fired operations at University Park after more than 150 years. The West Campus Steam Plant was built in 1929 and has been in almost continuous operation for 86 years. Three coal-fired boilers have been replaced by two, new, high-capacity, gas-fired boilers. Both the WCSP and the East Campus Steam Plant (ECSP) are part of Penn State's district energy system that produces steam distributed to more than 200 individual buildings via a network of 19 miles of underground piping.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) - At University Park, Penn State operates the East and West Campus CHP plants cogenerating steam and electricity serving more than 200 buildings on campus. Annually Penn State's District Energy System produces 100% of campus steam needs and 20% of campus electric needs. 

Building Automation Systems - Approximately 350 buildings at the University Park campus are controlled via building automation systems (BAS). This functionality maintains customer environmental satisfaction by keeping the buildings climate within specific range and providing lighting based on occupancy schedules as well as monitoring system performance for device failures.

Enterprise Utility Management System - Penn State utilizes an Enterprise Energy Management Suite for tracking of energy commodity purchasing, energy and water consumption, meter data and real time energy data for a select number of buildings. This system allows for accurate tracking of energy consumption and the data is used to inform development of Energy Program projects.