Alternative Power on College Campuses

University of Oregon
Solar panel idea wins big 'Bucks'
By Beata Mostafavi Oregon Daily Emerald May 21, 2001

In Jocelyn Eisenberg's and Ben Gates' eyes, the EMU roof should be covered by solar panels -- providing the building with clean, renewable energy and taking action toward alleviating the effects of the energy crisis.

Their dream moved one step closer to reality Monday morning as the school's big, white duck mascot stomped into the EMU Amphitheater and handed the two students a $100,000 "check" to help them conduct their plan.

Eisenberg, an architecture graduate student, and Gates, a senior architecture major, are the winners of the ASUO Executive's "100,000 Bucks for Ducks" campaign. The contest sought the best student idea on how to spend $100,000 from the overrealized fund, which contains leftover incidental fee money from higher-than-expected student enrollment of past years.

The executive received a total of 41 proposals, ASUO Public Relations Director Jamie Gerlitz said at a press conference Monday morning. Ideas ranged from having big concerts and throwing nonalcoholic parties to building a "freak" office for all the "different" people on campus.

Top choices that were close seconds to the solar panel project included revamping the Pocket Playhouse and turning Room 180 PLC into a movie theater on the weekends.

"There was a plethora of diverse and wonderful ideas ... The final decision was a difficult one," Gerlitz said. "Solar panels will keep giving and giving for years. It not only benefits the campus community but all of Eugene and Oregon ... pending the energy crisis."

The winning students, who are members of the Ecological Design Center, wrote a proposal that would place at least 300 solar panels on top of the EMU -- ideally by sometime next year. This summer, Eisenberg and Gates plan to work with corporations, which they hope will match the $100,000 grant with private funds. They added that in the long run, they hope to cover the roof with additional panels, which would ideally produce more power than is consumed.

Gates said the project has been a "vision for students" for several years, and that students from the Ecological Design Center had brought the idea to the ASUO prior to the campaign. But the contest seemed to be the most viable way to find help implementing the plan, he said.

"There have been specific students that have been very apt on the idea," he said. "We as students are saying there is a solution to the energy crisis."

The Eugene Water and Electric Board has worked with students to find outside funds for expanding the project in the future. It will also pay a premium for any electricity the panels produce. EWEB representatives attended the press conference to show their support and commend students for their future vision.

"They're saying that they value clean, sustainable and renewable energy," said Brian Hawley, EWEB energy engineer. "We value and appreciate this commitment."

The University is EWEB's third-largest customer, Hawley said, right after Weyerhaeuser and Hyundai. Gerlitz said the project will save about 79,000 watts of electricity per year.

Eisenberg said her biggest concerns lie in the Bush administration's lack of support for clean energy sources and its plans to use nuclear energy as a solution to the nation's energy crisis. She added that this project puts the University on the map as a true "green" campus, and that it serves as a symbol of commitment to environmental justice.

"This will hopefully speak out to other campuses and the nation," she said. "And will hopefully really get folks looking at better solutions."

Macalester College
Urban turbine comes to St.Paul
by Mary Losure, Minnesota Public Radio April 23, 2003

Macalester College in St. Paul officially flipped the switch Wednesday on a 10-kilowatt wind turbine that will feed electricity directly into the college's power grid. The Macalester turbine is one of only a handful of urban wind turbines nationwide. St. Paul, Minn.

The 90-foot-tall tower topped with sleek, silver blades looks like the wind turbines that dot Minnesota's prairies. But this one stands on the edge of the Macalester college football field, surrounded by a densely populated urban neighborhood.

Macalester's Tom Welna read a long list of thank-you's at the switch-flipping ceremony, including one to the St. Paul Zoning Committee.

"The zoning committee went out on a limb and trusted that we were not erecting a noisy eyesore in a perfectly good neighborhood. And speaking of perfectly good neighborhoods, I also want to thank the many neighbors who called in, wrote in letters of support for this project," Welna said.

The college's graduating class of 2003 is raising money to pay for the tower's installation. "I think its a powerful symbol of where we need to go, and it's an icon for the school and the neighborhood, and it should generate more than just electricity," Dan Moring, a Macalester senior, said.

Other speakers agreed that the turbine was largely symbolic. It would take 300 such turbines to generate all the electricity the college needs. But speakers said the turbine will also be a useful study tool. It will generate data on how much electricity is produced at different wind speeds and it will provide a focus for discussion of wind-power issues.

The Macalester turbine is one of only a handful of urban wind turbines nationwide.

The turbine and tower plus the equipment to hook it into the grid cost $40,000. The cost was paid for by Minnesota's largest utility, Xcel Energy. Xcel's Laura McCarten says the company has been a nationwide leader in wind energy issues, and strong supporter of alternative energy.

"From wind power on both a large and small scale, to wind power, to photovoltaic to fuel cell technology, we work to foster the growth of alternative energy sources, and to prepare for a more environmentally friendly future," McCarten said.

But another speaker at the event questioned whether Minnesota really is headed toward the environmentally friendly future touted by Xcel.

Andrew Lambert is a 2001 graduate of the University of Minnesota who now works with a group called the Green Institute to develop renewable energy. Lambert pointed to bills in the state House and Senate to allow Xcel to expand its nuclear waste storage. The expanded storage would allow the company to keep its two nuclear plants operating long into the future.

"This presents an enormous disincentive for renewable energy development by continuing to supply a large chunk of the market with nuclear power. We can do better. We're smarter than that. Aldo Leopold said, 'A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong if it tends otherwise.' Procuring electricity from renewable resources like solar, fuel cells and wind turbines like this is clearly the right thing to do," Lamber said.

Macalester spokesman Welna said afterwards that Lambert had been asked to speak because the senior class had requested someone to speak on energy in a broader sense. He said the college, "suspected but didn't know specifically" that the topic of nuclear waste storage would be raised. Welna says the college has an open and flexible tradition, and respects academic freedom.

"I truly do not believe that this is a choice that if you want renewables, you have to shut the nuclear plants down," countered Xcel's Laura McCarten. "They co-exist, they should co-exist, they can co-exist, and with the plans that we have to add even more wind power, as we sit here today over 800 megawatts by 2007, we'll continue to have one of the strongest programs in the nation."

Critics say Xcel has added wind power only because the state legislature required it to as part of a law allowing it to expand its nuclear storage in the early 1990s.

If the company is denied permission for more nuclear storage, it plans replace its nuclear plants with two conventional power plants, one fired by coal, and the other by natural gas.

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