University of Utah's electricity fueled by renewable energy

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The University of Utah has agreed to an energy deal to allow the school to get more than half of its electricity through renewable sources, making it the first public college in the state to do so.

The university finalized the purchase of geothermal energy with Cyrq Energy in November, fueling 53.7% of the university's electricity with renewable energy, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday.

“This is just such a big step, and it puts us on our way to being entirely carbon neutral,” said Keith Diaz-Moore, the university’s interim chief sustainability officer.

The university's goal is to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, officials said.

The Salt Lake City campus previously operated with less than 5% of renewable energy from mostly water and solar sources but will now use geothermal energy, which is produced by harnessing heat under the earth's surface, officials said.

The plant the school will use is made up of four wells drilled into the ground over pools of water, some with temperatures of more than 365 degrees Fahrenheit (185 degrees Celsius), university officials said.

That water is then pumped to the surface, where the vapor from it rotates a turbine and produces power before the liquid is cooled and returned back down to the earth, officials said.

University officials declined to disclose the cost but said it’s comparable to what it currently pays for electricity.