Usage of Solar Panels to Cut Energy Costs

One reason St. Mary’s is not your run of the mill school is that students have a real say in a lot of the decision making that goes on (depending on the area of course).

In the past year alone, amongst other initiatives, students have spearheaded movements to change the controversial “protest policy” in “To The Point,” as well as plans for a “footbridge,” and voted to give much needed monetary assistance to departments ailing from the budget cuts forced by a time of economic uncertainty.

But the ailing economy is not entirely to blame for our school’s current monetary troubles. It is my opinion that we spend too much on dirty energy that drives up costs and pollutes the planet.

If St. Mary’s wishes to retain and augment its status as an exemplary education that is affordable to a wide spectrum of people, we must kick the fossil fuel habit.

With money we spend purchasing energy that poisons the air, the water and heats the globe, we could be hiring new professors, offsetting the recent tuition and student fee hikes or purchasing first- rate lab equipment.

The Campus Sustainability Committee, as well as the Office of Facilities, and concerned students, have identified a myriad of ways we can convert to clean, renewable energy sources for our campus while also saving the college money by reducing volatile energy costs.

One of these projects that could be “shovel-ready” by the end of this year is the installation of solar water heating systems on one or more of the dorms. If you have ever left a garden hose outside during the summer for a while then squirted the water, you know the water gets HOT.

That’s basically how solar water heating works. We heat water with the abundant, free energy of the sun, and use it for showers, washers, sinks, etc.

While the initial cost is considerable, the money we will save by not buying oil will pay for the system within three to five years of the installation, and continue to save us for over a decade after that.

This will end up saving close to $200,000 in student fees if we install solar water heating on each dorm.

A group of students from Dr. Kung’s Math of Social Change course are applying for a Talon Grant from the SGA to install solar water heating on one or more of the dorms.

Please email your SGA senator to say you support initiatives such as this that save us money and make our school more sustainable. You can also email your campus administrators like Tom Botzman (Vice President of Finance) to say you want to see the campus invest wisely in clean energy instead of toxic assets and dirty fuels.

-Shane Hall ‘09

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