LOWELL -- It's getting windy at UMass Lowell dormitories, and not just because of the weather.
The university began using wind turbines to power all its dorms in February, making it the first state agency to purchase renewable energy.
Yesterday, state officials recognized the university for leading the state in renewable energy use.
Sen. Steven Panagiotakos said UMass Lowell has always been a leader in conserving energy.
"In the area of renewable energy and having a social conscience, this is far and away the best agency we have in the commonwealth of Massachusetts," Panagiotakos said at a ceremony at Cumnock Hall.
In February, university officials signed a three-year contract for $9,000 a year with Community Energy of Philadelphia to supply enough electricity to power all eight dormitories.
The university has already cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 5,000 tons over the past three years, which is equal to 900 cars on the road for one year. They also have a 25 percent recycling rate.
"No campus has made greater strides in recognizing the role higher education plays than the campus here," said Eric Friedman, director of state sustainability at the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.
Friedman also presented two grants for nearly $20,000 to support the the use of solar power at UMass Lowell. The money will help the university install solar panels on the roof of Ball Hall, a science and engineering building, to provide it with electricity.
Mark Lukitsch, energy and utilities manager at UMass Lowell, said the move is to reduce the university's dependence on fossil fuels and to help battle global warming.
Vice Chancellor of Facilities Diana Prideaux-Brune said it's important to show that higher education can get involved in conserving energy.
"Our mission is sustainability, and renewable energy is a big piece of that," she said.