Campus living is a lifestyle choice that encourages students to seek a more independent and self-sufficient life. Yet, the trend of living away from home is not a new one; the dormitories have been around for centuries. However, with the rise of the millennial generation, coupled with increased home prices, coupled with the increased importance placed on quality of life, the modern-day collegiate is looking for ways to reduce their ecological footprint.
One of the most obvious areas where a campus can reduce its ecological footprint is in regards to energy sourcing. In the past, most collegiate campuses have been reliant on the municipal utility for electricity, with some smaller, more alternative campuses even relying on outhouses for generating power. However, in today’s world, alternative energy sources such as solar energy are readily available, and more importantly, cost-effective.
With the majority of the American population supporting President Trump’s decision to abolish Obama-era climate change initiatives, coupled with the increased price of oil and gas, coupled with the decreasing price of solar energy modules, now is the right time for colleges and universities to explore alternative energy sources such as solar power.
Rising Energy Costs
The cost of energy is one of the largest factors hampering the growth of alternative energy sources on college campuses. While electricity is not always cheap (in fact, it is becoming more expensive with time), the cost of solar energy has decreased significantly in recent years, and it is now close to parity with conventional power sources. Additionally, the panels themselves have gotten much more affordable; a standard 5kW system can be purchased for under $15,000, and 10kW systems can be found for under $25,000. These cost savings add up quickly and make solar power a viable option for virtually all college students and campus communities.
One of the primary concerns of school administrators and campus communities when it comes to implementing renewable energy sources on their premises is liability. The general public has a negative opinion of power plants and generating stations, and it is not uncommon for schools to be held liable for any damage or injury caused by an accident at a power plant. While schools cannot completely eliminate the risk of accidents, they can significantly reduce it by taking proper precautions.
It is well-established that solar power generation reduces the need for expensive and potentially dangerous fossil fuels, cutting down on air pollution and hazardous waste. Additionally, the process of manufacturing solar panels creates jobs, which helps to improve community quality of life. When examining the pros and cons of alternative energy sources, it is important to remember that most benefits come with a cost, and it is up to the individual user to decide whether or not those costs are worth it.
Possible Solar Sourcing Scenarios
Now that you are equipped with an understanding of the pros and cons of alternative energy sources, you are in a better position to determine which scenario will be the most viable for your campus. The first step in reaching this decision is to perform a complete energy audit. An experienced energy auditor will be able to locate all energy-related leaks and inefficiencies on your site and help you to identify the origin of the problem. Once this has been done, it is time to develop a plan, and here are a few ideas that can help.
One of the most cost-effective and simple ways for a campus to implement solar power is to simply retrain existing lighting and appliances. This doesn’t just relate to fixtures and bulbs; all of the electronics and gear used to generate and consume electricity can be upgraded to be more energy-efficient. For example, all of the laptops and desktops in a classroom can be upgraded to use less power, and this alone can reduce your electricity bill by 40%. In some instances, entire buildings have been converted to be more environmentally friendly, with new roofs, insulation, upgraded windows, and efficient appliances.
When a campus decides to switch from a traditional power provider to a more eco-friendly alternative, there is usually a period of time during which the power is off and the old provider is disconnected while the new one is connected and functioning. This type of situation is known as a power outage, and it usually lasts for a couple of days as technicians from the power company come in and install gear necessary to connect the campus to the new energy source. During this time, the power will be off and there will be no electricity generated by the solar panels. In some communities, this can cause big problems as food will have to be transported in by cars and trucks, leading to higher energy consumption and more pollution. However, as a result of the transition, the community will be provided with cheaper electricity and a more green environment.
Another way that a campus can generate additional power is to install additional panels. While additional panels will not generate as much electricity as the first ones, they will help to make up for the reduction in capacity. As the demand for electricity increases during the day, additional panels will help to provide more juice for the community.
Ultimately, every decision that a campus makes in regards to green energy needs to be sustainable. While it is always important to examine the environment and consider the needs of the community, it is essential that the electricity that is generated be able to be sustained for the long term. In order to do this, the process of installing solar panels needs to be as streamlined and eco-friendly as possible. The entire process of setting up a solar power system should be treated with the utmost care and attention to detail, as any hiccups along the way could lead to malfunctioning or breakage of the equipment, resulting in additional expenses and time wasted in repairs.
As you can see, there are many different ways that a campus environment can be improved by implementing solar power generation. From cutting down on energy bills to reducing air pollution to creating employment opportunities, solar energy is the future of campus sustainability.