With the many innovations Gustavus has brought in renovating campus, the push for environmental sustainability has been at the forefront of every decision. Most recently, the addition of solar panels to the roofs of Beck Academic Hall, Olin Hall, Lund Center and Jackson Campus Center has brought the awareness for sustainability to a greater level.
The solar electric power, installed this past February, is expected to provide energy to heat the water system in various parts of campus, such as the Market Place and the pool in Lund, both high water usage buildings. By May 2012, the pool itself should be fully heated by the panels.
“We’re hoping to show a positive image for the campus. It is a sign that we’re looking toward the future. Students do pay attention to environmentally friendly institutions,” Vice President for Institutional Advancement Tom Young said.
Young worked with Gustavus in the Institutional Advancement department to engage alumni, invite their philanthropy and steward these relationships. In working with the administrators of Beck and the 150 million dollar comprehensive program of Campaign Gustavus, an anonymous donation was received that allowed for the solar panels to be installed, a project that otherwise would have been too far out of the initial budget to exist.
“It is hard to give thanks to someone unknown, but there is a deep appreciation for the donor,” Director of the Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation and Professor of Environmental Studies James Dontje said.
The Johnson Center provides opportunities on campus to practice being environmentally conscious.
“As advocates of sustainability, we hope to practice that ourselves and represent something students should learn and carry with them,” Dontje said.
In addition to conserving energy on campus, the solar panels will help provide research opportunities for students. While the panels are on Beck, a power grid located on the roof of Olin serves as a place where students can observe different models of electricity.
“The energy will be sent to a power grid, and when it is coordinated, there will be no wasted energy,” Young said.
Students can also see where energy is dissipated around campus and what benefits the solar panels have, among other things. Student researchers, with permission of a professor or administrator, can receive access to the roof of Olin to observe installations or can get virtual access for projects in the teaching lab.
“Students are especially happy if they can go to an institution in which they can participate. There is a sense of pride and commitment. We hope this is the beginning of a long term process to be very efficient and sustainable,” Young said.
“Equally important are the people who make those decisions (to be environmentally conscious). It is how we want our students to come out of those institutions and to be working on that technology,” Dontje said.
“In striving toward a more green college and in sending 600 people into their [chosen] fields, our hope is that by being an institution where we practice our values, they will carry those values to where they end up,” Young said. “In building ecologically friendly, renovating with the future in mind and having Big Hill Farm and composting, we practice such things. It’s part of what you do and it becomes a normal part of daily dialogue. We do our part to change that conversation.”