UA's opportunity for increased sustainability is nowBy SoRelle Wyckoff | 02/10/2013 11:00pm
As the University builds, they should be considering options to make the Capstone more sustainable. The new buildings will provide shelter and amenities to UA students, but that good will finish once the student leaves our campus. Adding solar paneling to the roof of our new buildings would do good for the student long after they leave Alabama.
Currently, Bama Dining has two solar paneled golf carts. These golf carts are zero emission and can also be charged when sunlight is not available. That’s awesome. But think about how much energy could be saved at a larger level, like a dorm roof.
It’s well known that our energy sources are becoming a greater issue as they continue to deplete. It’s also well known that our current energy habits are dangerous for our habitat. Acting sooner, rather than later, means more energy will be saved and better habits will develop.
The catch? The price – solar paneling is expensive, even for a school that makes $7 million on parking tickets. But, the sticker shock can be comforted with the after-effects of installation.
Unlike some states, Alabama government incentives can apply to institutional sectors. These tax incentives are more instant gratifications for solar panel users, but over time, monetary benefits will pile up.
Within 10 years, the amount of money saved on energy costs will start to become profit. UA officials estimate the time it would take to make it a worthy financial investment would be closer to 40 years, but the current emphasis on alternative fuel suggests these types of investment will be profitable sooner rather than later. Year to year, the savings might look small, but when the savings are added together, there will be impressive numbers.
The University is constantly planning ahead for its growing body of students, but these plans are often on a two-to-five-year spectrum. University administration needs to break the habit of looking ahead with a short-term mindset and instead, should start to consider a larger picture, especially when it comes to construction and campus growth. The new dorms, while swanky, are not built to last half the time that Tutwiler has.
Because Alabama is run on taxpayers’ dollars, these options must certainly be considered, as adding solar paneling would not only do goo for the University, but for all residents of the state. Other than driving down energy expenditures and reducing Alabama’s carbon footprint, the University could also use its purchasing power to drive down the cost of solar paneling for other homes and offices in Alabama.
Surely, the project of solar paneling will be far more expensive than current construction costs, but the University is facing this option with the perfect opportunity. At this moment, The University of Alabama is doing very well monetarily, and with the continued growth of our sports programs, Alabama is an intelligent financial investment.
With these resources, Alabama should in turn invest in the future of the school, and focusing on sustainability is intelligent and admirable. Alabama would then become a leader in the use of solar power and sustainable projects, bolstering our academic and intelligence alongside the prowess of our athletics.
Instead of only providing shelter for students, the University should take the opportunity of property growth to provide smart energy habits and leadership via example. Solar paneling in roofs, while expensive, would do even more for students’ futures than the University already promises to provide.
SoRelle Wyckoff is a senior majoring in history and journalism. Her column runs on Mondays.
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