Holiday cheer for colleges leading the way

 

Now that all the papers are graded and final grades submitted, I’m feeling a bit of holiday cheer for my employer, Arizona State University, and I’m inclined to give them a shout-out for a cool thing they’re doing. They don’t, of course, really need my help; there’s a large and well-staffed publicity office that is determined to keep you apprised of the latest factoids about the new football coach, and all sorts of other newsworthy stuff that may also have the salutary effect of tempting you to enroll and/or contribute.

Still, you may have missed the press release back in September that heralded the university’s capability of generating ten megawatts of energy through its many solar installations, equivalent to 20 percent of its energy use. Lots of universities around the U.S. are “going solar,” including many in nearby Western states, including University of California San Diego, Colorado State University, Weber State University (Utah), and University of Montana. All have impressive arrays, but none, as of this writing, have yet reached the 10 MW mark.

Visit the Tempe campus, where I work, and solar panels will likely be the first and most obvious thing you see. They look mighty impressive; ASU boasts that they “prominently display the university’s commitment to renewable energy and carbon neutrality.” That’s an understatement. They cover nearly every roof, and, in one of the latest versions, actually create a roof, or sort of giant ramada, over part of the enormous stadium parking lot, which is infamous for being the cheapest place to park but the farthest from classroom buildings. During our spring/summer/fall blistering heat, the long trudge to one’s car in “lot 59” is the most miserable thing you can imagine. Now, at least some of the long-suffering commuter students, faculty, and staff will be able to enjoy a bit of shade beneath the hundreds of panels mounted about twenty feet overhead. It’s a sight to see.

You may be wondering who’s paying for all this. Public universities in Arizona and everywhere else in the U.S. have been bitten hard by shrinking revenues in the recession. At ASU, there has been a terrible toll of lay-offs, program eliminations or mergers, pay-reductions, and furloughs. Class sizes have gone up, and tuition prices have skyrocketed.

And yet, public sector budgeting is a mysterious thing. Deals can be struck; “soft money” can be found. In the case of the solarization project, it’s the former. According to the ASU Chief Financial Officer’s website, various developers own and operate the installations. In return, they receive tax credits and utility incentives. For its share of the bargain, ASU gets to buy the energy at a favorable rate. Unless any of these relationships go sour (always a possibility), it’s a pretty decent thing, and decent things are worth being thankful for at year’s-end. Good on you, ASU.

Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

Jackie Wheeler teaches writing and environmental rhetoric at Arizona State University.

Image of solar panels at ASU by Flickr user Kevin Dooley

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Colorado Trout Unlimited seeks an individual with successful development experience, strong interpersonal skills, and a deep commitment to coldwater conservation to serve as the organization's...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Now hiring a full-time, remote Program Director for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship! Come help us promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...