St. Olaf College's many dozens of buildings on its Northfield campus are now being powered entirely by wind energy, the liberal arts school and Xcel Energy announced Monday.

By choosing Xcel's Windsource program for its electrical service starting at the beginning of this semester, St. Olaf becomes the utility's largest Windsource customer in the state.

"We're thrilled to help St. Olaf College achieve their renewable energy goals and share their commitment to protecting the environment," Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy for Minnesota and the Dakotas, said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "We're proud to partner with a school educating students about the benefits of renewables as we expand wind and solar energy options for customers."

With Windsource, the 3,000-student St. Olaf will avoid 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, or the equivalent of taking more than 1,300 cars off the road yearly. Additionally, the college is a large subscriber to community solar gardens.

"We are one of the largest community solar garden subscribers and the largest Windsource customer in the state," Pete Sandberg, St. Olaf assistant vice president for facilities, said in concert with Monday's announcement. "With all of that in play, carbon per student is 47 percent less than it was in 2001. That's one of the lowest numbers of any campus in the country."

Xcel, the nation's no. 1 utility wind provider, began Windsource in Minnesota in 2003, and the program has more than 45,000 residential and commercial customers in the state. Xcel Energy has 20 Minnesota wind farms providing green energy to Windsource participants.

Windsource is ranked as the third-largest voluntary green energy program in the United States based on customer participation, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Besides Minnesota, Xcel serves customers in Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482