SUN Delegates give hope for more solar energy on campus

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UMD students involved in the SUN (Solar University Network) Delegation have taken huge steps in creating a more energy-efficient campus. The commitment of several students on campus has led to the possibility of more solar panels on the Oakland apartments this year.

The SUN Delegates focus on raising awareness and support throughout campus and gathering resources and tools to evaluate and prioritize future solar sites on campus.

“Our biggest impact to our carbon footprint is our energy usage, so the biggest and best thing we can do is to reduce our use of energy,” senior and third-year member of the SUN Delegation Madelaine Sinclair said.

Currently, there are five students who are SUN Delegates. In the past two years, they have worked to encourage the campus to invest in solar energy. All of these students joined this group because of their passion for protecting the planet.

“I studied abroad in France and kind of gained this global perspective and idea that we need to do something to help protect our world,” senior and SUN Delegate Aiden Fawcett said.

Director of the Office of Sustainability Mindy Granley said that within the past two years, the students worked through undergraduate research opportunity program and class projects to make advances with solar energy projects on campus. Granley acts as a guiding hand for the student-run program.

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In 2015, a group of delegates wrote and presented at a funding request for solar panels from the Student Service Fees Committee. They were successful in securing $100,000 for a renewable energy project. Sinclair said that this was their biggest accomplishment since the group began.

UMD currently has two solar sites on campus located on the Malosky Stadium and Bagley outdoor classroom. This is a small start to the amount of solar energy SUN delegates want to bring to campus.  

After receiving a grant from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, the delegates were able to get a remote survey of areas on campus where they would like to see solar energy.

Sinclair said that in the future, the delegates hope to have 750 kilowatts, equal to almost one megawatt, spread all over campus. This is what they call their “sweet spot.” This amount of solar would pay back tremendously and has become the long term goal of the SUN Delegates. 11.4 kilowatts of solar energy is currently being produced on campus.

The team did have a minor setback last year after designing a solar pavilion to be built near the Malosky Stadium. The SUN Delegation got approval, gathered funding and participated in the design process for the solar pavilion this past summer. However, soil condition at the site led to financial issues.

This year, delegates are working on installing 30-40 kilowatt solar panels onto Oakland apartments, which would triple solar production on campus. The group is currently working with housing facilities and management to see if the building can bear the weight. If everything is approved, the panels will be up and working this year.

The SUN Delegates accept applicants year-round who are passionate about making campus more sustainable and encouraging more solar energy production on campus. Students within all majors are accepted, and those who are interested in learning more about solar energy sustainability are welcome to apply. Applications can be found here.

 

NewsCassidy Johnson