Power, rain or shine

Weber State University is hoping to harness the power of the sun with new solar panels that are rising across campus. With the support of students and the will of the university behind them, WSU’s Energy and Sustainability Department is trying to put a dent in the university’s consumption of both money and energy. Sustainable energy systems are being installed at both the Ogden and Davis campuses. The Davis campus alone now holds 84 solar panels, allowing it to save 1.9 percent of its energy consumption. An interactive kiosk, set up in the lobby of the Davis building, will track the amount of energy produced there.

The WSU Environmental Club supports installing solar panels on the roofs of all the buildings on campus. Leroy Christensen, a WSU senior and president of the Environmental Club, explained why he thought this would benefit the school and its students, as well as the environment.

“On all the buildings that are new, solar panels would be a good idea,” he said. “It would be kind of a waste to have an open roof, when we could be saving money and returning that money back to the students by lowering tuition or offering new, better programs with the extra money we save.”

Christensen and Environmental Club members were amongst many students who supported the new additions in energy production on campus. Jennifer Bodine, WSU’s sustainability specialist, talked about how pleased she was by the reaction of students and faculty.

“I’ve also been excited by how excited other folks on campus have been,” she said. “The faculty and the students, and the staff that I get to talk to, how excited and proud that they are about the fact that Weber State is moving in this direction. . . . I feel very lucky and privileged to be a part of it all.”

The solar panels on the Union Building are part of a series of projects that have been set up over the last summer, with solar panels also being installed for the Swenson Gym swimming pool and the Davis campus. WSU’s Climate Action Plan, endorsed by WSU President Ann Millner, aims to make WSU carbon-neutral by 2050 and was inspired by the projects. According to Bodine, this is only the beginning of WSU’s energy-saving measures.

“The four solar projects we’ve got going this summer are just the start of what will be solar projects all over campus,” she said.

The latest solar projects cost $220,000 for the Swenson Gym, $220,000 for the Shepherd Union Building and $133,000 for the Davis campus. There will also be 15 solar panels positioned on the roof of the new Wildcat Village housing building that recently opened. The projects were paid for with grants and energy loans that will be paid back through energy savings made by the solar panels and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act championed by President Barack Obama. According to WSU Energy and Sustainability Manager Jacob Cain, who oversaw the solar projects, $525,000 dollars was saved over the last year as a result of WSU’s new commitment to renewable energy.

“We’re making a lot of progress,” he said. “And we’re seeing some good impacts and Weber State’s starting to be recognized as a leader in the sustainability and energy efficiency realm in the state of Utah.”