Renewable Energy and the Opportunity for Higher Education

The rise of renewable energy deployment in recent years has been made partially possible by a more concerted effort by new generations. With the younger population understanding the pressing needs of the planet, it is only natural for our educational institutions to follow suit.

Schools help youth to learn, grow, and prepare for adulthood while serving society and spurning the greater good. The university/college experience is especially immersive, with personal development occurring both in the classroom and the campus environment.

However, many of the benefits one receives with a higher education come with high costs. The cost of such education continues to rise, making topics of “affordability” and “sustainability” popular buzzwords when discussing the prospects of pursuing these schools.

While many of these costs can be attributed to curriculum, faculty, research, etc., one of the largest fixed costs schools will incur are campus facilities and upkeep. The construction and powering of these buildings are covered by a large portion of the fees that students will have to pay.

Solar Projects are no longer considered “luxuries”, they are viable sources of power which can save facilities money and provide many other benefits that can be reaped by the stakeholders of these projects. The cost of solar power generation has dropped so dramatically over the past few years that schools and facilities can now look to construct and operate renewable energy projects immediately on campus. Many institutions today host solar projects which are developed, owned and operated by outside investors. These developers earn revenue by selling clean energy back to the campus. The schools purchase the clean energy for less than they would pay for conventional power off the grid in many jurisdictions in North America. This means it is time for public facilities to embrace the green movement and enjoy the fiscal benefits. 

There are additional advantages as well. Consider that a recent survey by Princeton states that 50-60 percent of incoming college students care about attending an environmentally responsible university, with modern facilities being a high priority. This trend is only expected to increase with generation Z incoming, meaning that green energy has potential to become a valuable recruitment tool.

Saturn Power has played a role in many projects where we build solar projects in partnership with  public agencies and utilizing public infrastructure, such as the Blind River Health Center, a 400kW rooftop solar project located in London, Ontario.

Consider also the 25 school boards in Alberta, Canada, which now purchase clean renewable energy from a 29MW wind farm.

While solar energy will both reduce the carbon footprint of these institutions and save them money, another important impact of these projects cannot be understated. Specifically, the education of students and youth on the viability of alternative and renewable energies will lead the future of our society in a positive direction. Both the exposure to and comprehension of the role renewables play when powering their school will let even non-science majors understand the importance of the industry. As the leaders of tomorrow familiarize themselves with solar, they may take this knowledge with them throughout their career and lives, accelerating deployment in the future.

We enjoyed this article by Renewable Energy World which makes a great case for higher education institutions to embrace solar energy on campus: