With the 2015 academic year kicking off, hundreds of thousands of students from all over the country will be heading to colleges and universities across the United States for the start of a new semester. There are now approximately 5,300 colleges and universities throughout the country that will be welcoming new students this year, each with their own unique features, amenities and unique attributes.

While each school in the United States differs slightly, there is one thing many of these schools share in common; a goal to make their campuses more energy efficient.

While electricity rates around the US vary, American colleges combined are spending almost $7 billion a year in utilities and energy costs, meaning savings of just a few percent could result in hundreds of millions of dollars for these educational programs. Fortunately for students today, some of the top schools in the country are doing everything from investing in solar panels to making low-cost adjustments to change their attitudes on energy use.

We have surveyed the efforts of some of these schools and made a list of the 25 most energy efficient colleges that will be starting classes this fall. The following schools have made it to the top of the class when it comes to energy efficient practices, as they work to conserve energy used and lessen their impact on the environment.

1. University of California Irvine

The University of California, Irvine has an award-winning energy management program that has been recognized by the U.S. Department for Energy and is used globally as a model for improving energy efficiency. This all started when the school decided to take part in the Better Buildings Challenge in 2011, which challenged organizations to improve energy efficiency by 20% by the year 2020. The school met their goal seven years early and was the first educational institution to meet the objective.

UC Irvine reduced their energy consumption by 23 by 2013. The school has more than 11,700 solar panels throughout its campus that can generate up to 3.2 megawatts of power, or enough energy to power 1800 homes.

New LEED certified buildings are being constructed on campus while the school continues to promote thermal energy storage. The school recently retrofitted all of their internal and external lighting with more energy efficient options, and started remodeling their labs to be more energy efficient, since laboratory buildings typically require 24 hour power usage. These energy-efficient, smart labs even won the school international awards for their energy-efficiency.

2. University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh

The University of Wisconsin has six different LEED certified buildings on campus. Some of the school?s residence halls include features such as hybrid geothermal heating and cooling systems, energy efficient windows, green roof additions, heat recovery systems and underground geothermal walls. In 2014, one of the building?s residence halls alone was able to reduce their energy consumption by 80,000 kWh through new energy efficient practices.

The university installed 60 solar thermal panels on one of their buildings which produce up to 3 million BTUs per day, providing 70% of the hot water needs for that building and photovoltaic panels that rate at a total of 47.1 kW, or enough to power four homes.

The school?s residence halls aren?t the only buildings getting in on the energy saving action. The school?s student center has 84 photovoltaic panels to generate around 23,973 kWh of electricity per year.

3. University of Maryland

When the University of Maryland found themselves with an energy bill of more than $40 million per year, they took action to reduce their energy costs. The school installed more than 200 occupancy sensors in classrooms and buildings across campus to save on lighting costs. In 2011, the school installed more than 2,600 solar panels.

The school?s Cole Student Activities Building has its own solar panels that provide 5.25 kW of energy to the building, while other efforts to replace light fixtures with energy efficient alternatives have helped the school cut down on its usage.

The school purchases 66 million kWh of energy made from clean wind power a year, enough to offset 60% of the school?s electricity use. They also purchase power from regional solar and wind projects.

4. Columbia University

When Columbia University recently partnered with the Con Edison Green Team, this institution was able to reduce their energy costs by more than $700,000 per year. The school upgraded its water chilling system which along reduced energy consumption by 3.5 million kilowatt hours per year.

The school has added green, insulating roofs to many of their buildings to reduce heating and cooling costs, and revamped their labs to use less energy and lighting. New long-lasting, energy saving fluorescent light bulbs have been put up around the campus while timers and sensors in classrooms and multipurpose facilities have helped prevent unnecessary lighting usage throughout the campus.

When it was time for the school to renovate their housing building Knox Hall, they added 2,000 foot deep geothermal wells to provide heating and cooling power from the earth?s ground water. This effort along has projected an energy savings of up to 60%. The facility also works to control heating and cooling throughout the campus while optimizing cost and consumption.

5. Stanford University

Stanford University has several exciting projects in the works to help reduce their overall energy use. The university also just opened their own Central Energy Facility that makes the heating cogeneration process 70% more efficient.

The school launched the very first-of-its kind campus heat recovery system, design to efficiently heat and cool campus buildings while reducing the amount of wasted energy during the process.

Stanford recently announced plans to power with SunPower for a project that is expected to be completed by 2016. The endeavor will include a 68-megawatt peak solar plant, called the Stanford Solar Generator that will have more than 150,000 solar panels.

Together with 5 megawatts of power from rooftop solar systems, the panels will be able to provide around 53% of the university?s overall electricity use. The remaining energy will be purchased, in part, from renewable sources from the California power grid. In total, 65% of the school?s energy will be coming directly from renewable resources.

6. Boston University

In 2014, Boston University consumed 199,099,107 kWh of electricity. This may seem like a lot, but the university has been able to reduce its energy consumption by 4% since 2006, all while growing in size by 14%. The school has recently launched an effort to reduce their energy consumption with more than 8,000 LED replacements, which alone have reduced energy consumption by 2.4 million kWh per year.

Currently, the school is in the middle of a five year plan to reduce their energy costs by an additional 10%. This program started in 2012 and has not only included new lighting, but renovations and building automation systems as well, which the school expects to contribute to approximately 80% of the savings they need to reach their goal.

7. Washington University St. Louis

In addition to their plan to drastically reduce energy usage by 2020, Washington University in St. Louis has made several amazing advancements in becoming more energy efficient. The campus? Tyson Living Learning Center is one of the first five Living Buildings in the world. This facility is a net-zero building with roof mounted photovoltaic panels that provide the building with energy.

Throughout the rest of the campus, the school has completely replaced their lights with more energy efficient, low wattage bulbs that save an average of 376,394 kW hours per year in energy. Their overall lighting plan has saved more than 20.6 million kilowatt hours in total.

Washington University?s Green Labs Initiative has helped reduce the amount of energy needed to fuel the school?s research lab by using new energy efficient improvements and low-flow fume hoods. This effort has reduced energy usage in the labs by 25%.
The school also saves energy through their campus water chillers and by only purchasing Energy Star equipment for its offices and laboratories.

8. University of Pennsylvania

UPenn, has made several efforts to reduce their energy costs, beginning with their Century Bond Program. The school raised funds in order to accelerate building renovations to replace HVAC systems and add more energy efficient lighting I dozens of buildings. The school also has an Operations Command Center that monitors temperature control and energy usage throughout the campus, which saves the school more than $5 million per year in electricity costs.

The university also purchases more green power than any other higher education institution. The school even signed an agreement in 2013 to purchase over 200,000,000 kWh of wind energy annually for five years. This offsets more than 50% of the emissions from Penn?s overall electric usage. Their efforts to purchase more green energy has won the school several awards from the EPA?s Green Power Partnership program.

9. New York University

New York University has made several efforts to reduce their energy consumption, resulting in a more efficient campus for their 40,000 students. The school has 4,000 occupancy sensors air conditioning and heating controls and 4,000 occupancy light sensors. The school re-lamped all of their lights with new energy-efficient bulbs. The school launched their ?Lights Off? campaign to help reduce consumption. And ?NYUnplugged? a residence hall competition to promote energy conservation.

These efforts all began when the school accepted the mayoral Challenge in 2007 to reduce greenhouse gas output by 30% in ten years. It took the university just four years to surpass this challenge, all while drastically reducing their overall energy consumption.

10. Vanderbilt University

Since 2008, Vanderbilt University has made a concerted effort to be a more energy efficient campus. The school has added building automation systems, HVAC upgrades, window renovations, lighting control systems, new light fixtures and chillers to over a dozen on campus buildings.

Since launching their effort, the school has saved more than 12,513,500 kWh of electricity and reduced costs by more than $1,260,000. Currently the campus has 11 different buildings with LEED certification. The school even launched their own program known as the ThinkOne energy conservation program, an endeavor that is looking to help schools throughout the country reduce energy consumption by 10-15% through simple, low-cost practices.

11. Quinnipiac University

– Campus has energy-efficient cooling units throughout
– Energy efficient lighting and energy-saving windows are standard throughout campus buildings
– All electricity for university is purchased from renewable resources
– Campus has its own wind farm that can generate as much as 32,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year

12. Colby College

– Has 12 LEED certified buildings on campus
– Implemented a new policy to receive LEED certification for all new construction buildings
– Institution?s photovoltaic solar system is producing approximately 33,000 kWh of power each year for the school.

13. American University

– School?s green building policy has new construction properties meeting Gold LEED certifications
– Solar power project is expected to supply 50% of campus electricity needs by the end of the 2015 school year

14. Cornell University

– 15 LEED buildings on campus
– Currently developing a two-megawatt solar farm
– Launched Energy Conservation Project to reduce energy use on campus with lighting upgrades, occupancy controls and window upgrades

15. Colorado State University

– First university to have solar-powered heating and air conditioning systems
– First higher-learning facility in the world to have Platinum STARS
– Worked with NASA to develop their own radar system CloudStat that provides students with opportunities to research climate changes and their impact of energy usage

16. Bentley University

– Won 2014 Climate Leadership Award for energy conservation efforts
– School regularly purchases wind energy
– University has 3,000 square foot solar thermal wall outside the athletic center to generate solar power
– Campus boasts five Energy Star Certified buildings

17. University of South Florida

– Hosts country?s first 20,000 watt solar charging station for vehicles
– Has own Clean Energy Center
– Campus hosts Power Center for Utility Exploration that builds smart grids

18. Pomona College

– Has several LEED Gold Certified buildings on campus
– Two residence halls on campus built to LEED Platinum standards
– Solar hot water system is on pace to supply 80% of hot water to residence hall buildings
– New buildings feature rooftop solar panels and energy efficient windows

19. Iowa State University

– Six LEED certified buildings with eight more in the certification process
– On campus power plant
– University only purchases Energy Star-equivalent appliances
– Students can get a minor in Wind Energy

20. Green Mountain College

– Powers 85% of its heat and hot water from its own biomass plant that uses locally sourced wood chips for fuel – School has an undergraduate degree program in Renewable Energy and Eco Design
– School?s Student Campus Greening Fund helps bring in new Energy Star appliances, solar panels and light fixtures to campus along with a new wind turbine

21. University of Massachusetts – Amherst

– School won EPA Energy Star award for their Combined Heat and Power Plant
– University involved in clean energy partnerships on campus
– School has its own Sustainability Fellowship Program to bring more sustainable energy solutions and energy savings efforts to the university
– Students can major in Energy or Conservation

22. University of Colorado – Boulder

– University purchases wind credits that cover 10% of energy use
– School has 7.75 kW of solar panels installed and plans for an additional 225 kW

23. Tufts University

– School purchases hydro-electricity from an off-site source and has on-site solar panels
– University replaced lightbulbs for energy efficient options and installed occupancy and motion sensors throughout the campus
– Tufts operates a Lightbulb Exchange and a dorm energy competition called Do It in the Dark

24. Harvard University

– Currently implementing plan to reduce energy consumption by 2016
– Has 89 LEED certified buildings on campus with 27 more waiting for certification
– School purchases a majority of electricity from renewable energy sources

25. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

– All new buildings on campus since 2011 have been LEED certified
– New constructions feature green, insulating roofs to save energy
– School has 460 courses designed to help students understand energy sustainability