Universities warm to solar power

Across the nation, institutions of higher education are turning to solar power in order to commit to sustainability and to lower operating costs– and to stand out to environmentally-conscious potential students.

Last fall, we shared with you how we’re working with Kenyon College to develop a solar installation on the Kenyon Farm.  The plan engages current students in the planning and development stage and will benefit Kenyon and future students for decades.

Today, students increasingly value institutions’ commitment to sustainability. In fact according to a 2014 Princeton Review survey, 61% of applicants said that institutions’ track records and plans regarding the environment affects their decision on where to attend. In order to vie for top scholars, universities and colleges know that renewable energy has to be integrated into their long-term development plans.

A bonus? Green power boosts budgets, makes headlines, and inspires donors.

Energy efficiency and sustainability has become an integral part of how colleges are evaluated by the media and donors. This also gives institutions an opportunity to showcase their innovative, exciting ideas and express their ideals. By tailoring their approach to their communities and climate, institutions show how involved and interconnected they are to their environs and fellow community members. It also proves that they think long term.

In 2015, the most energy efficient colleges according to Electric Choice are:

  1. University of California Irvine
  2. University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh
  3. University of Maryland
  4. Columbia University
  5. Stanford University

While students’ eco-minded values have helped influence this trend, college and university leaders have stepped up to the plate. In 2007, many united to support a Climate Leadership Statement, which states:

We believe colleges and universities must exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by providing the knowledge, research, practice, and informed graduates to create a positive and sustainable future. Along with other aspects of sustainability, campuses that address the climate challenge by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and by integrating resilience into their curriculum, research, and campus operations will better serve their students and meet their social mandate to help create a vital, ethical, and prosperous civil society.

The good news is that colleges and universities have made progress. Sustainability in Higher Education, a report released by the University of New Hampshire, found that among colleges and universities, “[carbon] emissions per square foot were down 13% between 2007 and 2014; however energy usage per square foot was down only 2%.”

This means that there’s more work to be done to be sure (from fully integrating renewable power to campus biodiversity), but we believe that in the coming years, our universities and colleges will show how effective and financially prudent a commitment to our environment truly is.

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