Students initiate solar panel installation

Colin Watkins

Just in time for Lawrence’s
Earth Week celebrations, the
Lawrence campus will be receiving
an eco-friendly upgrade. A total of
14 solar panels were installed on
the rooftops of Youngchild Hall
April 22 as another step towards
offsetting the campus’ carbon footprint,
in keeping with the ongoing
Green Roots Initiative at Lawrence.
The idea did not come from
the administration, but rather
from two students, Will Meadows
and Austin Federa. The two met
through Greenfire and quickly
found a common ground in their
passion for environmentalism.
For both, Lawrence was a campus
that was lagging behind in
clean energy initiatives but taking
steps in the right direction.
“We have this LEED certified
building, Green Roots Initiative
and organic garden, but nothing in
terms of clean energy production,”
said Federa.
He and Meadows wasted no
time pursuing their goals, and
within a week had made connections
with Associate Professor of
Geology Jeff Clark and decided on
a project: solar panels.
“My role was mainly that of a
facilitator,” said Clark. “I pointed
them [Will and Austin] to resources
both on and off campus… I
provided some initial guidance,
but they did most of the leg work.”
The team sought out support
from all over campus – from
LUCC to Greenfire and facility
services. According to Meadows,
“Once we got started people really
gave us a lot of support.”
Roughly two-thirds of the cost
of the panels was paid for by
grants from outside the university.
The panels will provide about 2.8
kilowatts of electricity – enough
to power the entire environmental
studies department.
The team acknowledges that
this is a small success, but stresses
that it is also an important first
step. The new panels will reduce
Lawrence’s carbon dioxide emissions
by about three tons of carbon
per year, and will have a lifespan
of about 30 years.
Most importantly, “the project
showed that we as students can
take initiative and make things
change on campus,” said Meadows.
The two students hope that
their project will encourage others
to stand up for a greener campus
and send a signal to administrators
that clean energy is an important
issue for the university.
One of Federa’s goals is for
Lawrence to sign the American
College and University Presidents’
Climate Commitment, a pledge
to exercise leadership in society
by educating and modeling green
practices.
In the long term, both
Meadows and Federa have bigger
goals in mind, including potentially
upgrading the university’s boiler
system to reduce energy loss from
heating.
Their ultimate goal? “A carbonnegative
campus,” says Meadows,
explaining that the wooded acreage
of Bjorklunden absorbs carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere.
By continuing to look towards
renewable energy sources such
as solar power, it is possible for
Lawrence to offset its carbon footprint.
While this goal seems a long
way off, with a few more people
like Meadows and Federa, Lawrence
could rapidly become a role model
for universities nationwide.

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