CU continues sustainability strides across four campuses

New solar array, energy-efficient building improvements at CU Boulder receive initial approval from Board of Regents
By Staff

New construction projects proposed for the University of Colorado Boulder are the latest steps by CU leadership to continue making progress on sustainability efforts.

A new solar array planned for CU Boulder’s East Campus and a slate of maintenance projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions received preliminary approval from the Board of Regents Finance Committee at its May 22 meeting. The items are expected to receive approval from the full board at its meeting June 20-21 in Pueblo.

The $7.8 million solar array, expected to be running by January 2026, will generate roughly 1.4 million kilowatt hours annually, offsetting a significant amount of CU Boulder’s total electricity usage. CU Boulder already has solar arrays at 16 main campus buildings, producing 2.6 million kilowatt hours in 2022-23. Multiple solar arrays also are generating energy at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and the University of Colorado Denver.

The facility improvement projects in 18 buildings – equal to about 16% of the total gross square footage at the main CU Boulder campus – will cost $5.8 million. Utility and operational savings are projected to total $377,000 annually. Improvements include replacement of steam traps and more energy-efficient lighting and water fixtures.

Last week’s meeting included presentations detailing many ways in which all four CU campuses are continuing to improve sustainability and lessen their environmental impact. At the direction of the Board of Regents, sustainability goals are stipulated in CU’s systemwide strategic plan, and CU system administration compiles campus sustainability reports every two years; the most recent was released last December.

Potable water consumption was down at all four campuses in 2022-23 compared to the previous year; landscaping with native plants and grasses rather than thirsty turf is among the contributing factors. Rates of recycling and composting are also on the rise across the CU system. Transportation solutions include bus passes, improved infrastructure for bicycles and greater use and availability of electric vehicles and EV charging stations.

CU also is educating students who plan to bring environmental expertise to the workforce in Colorado and beyond. CU Boulder offers about 100 sustainability-focused courses for undergraduate and graduate students. CU Denver boasts 21 such courses, as well as a new master’s degree in sustainable business. At the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, the School of Medicine’s Climate and Health program aims to illuminate how climate change is affecting human health.

Other recent sustainability strides highlighted at last week’s meeting:

At CU Boulder, the campus released a Climate Action Plan in April and plans regular reporting on progress toward goals, which will be facilitated by a new Sustainability Executive Council.

As UCCS moves from measurement and analysis to implementation of new efficiencies and deferred maintenance projects, the campus has made two new hires who will complete energy performance projects.

CU Denver, which is hiring a sustainability manager this summer, shares the Auraria Campus with two other institutions. The Auraria Sustainable Campus Program recently purchased a commercial composter and hired a compost operations manager. The campus also has received funding for upgrades to heating-cooling systems that will save energy.

CU Anschutz began energy master planning this year, with completion – including the hiring of a team of experts – expected in 2025.

See more details from last week’s presentation here.