SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The University of Notre Dame is shuttering its coal-fired power plant a year ahead of schedule thanks to a sustainable energy plan that's seen the campus embrace renewable energy.
Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins got behind the wheel of a truck Monday and dumped the final load of coal, which will likely burn through Wednesday. It's part of the school's strategy to become carbon neutral.
"One of the key underlying elements of our sustainability strategy is really to influence people's awareness and their behavior. And as part of that, we need to broaden that awareness and educate people," said Carol Mullaney, Notre Dame Director of Continuous Improvement.
In 2015, Jenkins announced the university's target to end coal use at the plant by the end of next year and reducing its carbon footprint by at least half by 2030.
Notre Dame has already cut its carbon emissions by 50% from 2005 levels. The school achieved this by reducing energy use, discovering new energy sources, and expanding its energy infrastructure, officials said.
Paul Kempf, Notre Dame's senior director of utilities and maintenance, said more than $200 million has been invested in renewable projects across campus. He noted other investments are being planned for the next 50 years.
"Our work is not complete. Although we have met our short-term goal way ahead of schedule, there is still a lot to be done," Kempf said. "We continue to look for and find more opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint."
The projects are aligned with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program and are part of the university's larger Comprehensive Sustainability Strategy, which focuses on energy, water conservation, building and construction enhancements, waste reduction, procurement and education.
It's important to nurture the environment for future generations, Jenkins said.
"Not seeing it as a resource to be used simply for our needs, though it is that, but a gift of which we are stewards," Jenkins said. "That is something we hope to exemplify by the steps but at a university it's important to teach by what we do."
The plant will be replaced by two 5.5-megawatt natural gas turbines, which Notre Dame started using earlier this year.