Student Sustainability Task Force moves for greener campus, to buy solar panels for RPI Student Union

Many of RPI’s clubs and organizations are devoted to sustainability, the ability to survive and maintain diversity without excessive destruction of natural resources. While these clubs, which include the Student Sustainability Task Force, Ecologic, and Terra Cafe, have worked hard to push for sustainable practices on campus (with other clubs such as Engineers for a Sustainable World and Rensselaer Electric Vehicle working on projects geared more towards the world at large), it is clear that there are still many issues that need solving.

But where do we focus our efforts? There are many answers to this question. We are always looking to become more sustainable in every area from our food consumption to our energy usage. Any answer depends on the budget and other available resources for its solution, and the willingness of people to follow said solution.

Among the most popular questions of sustainability is energy usage. Here at RPI, we’ve taken the first step to sustainable energy by installing solar panels at ECAV. Frankly, however, we need to take more. As one of the leading technology and engineering schools in the world, we have both the ability and the responsibility to set an example of sustainable energy use on college campuses and urban environments.  

Towards that end, the Student Sustainability Task Force is looking to establish greater usage of solar energy at RPI. SSTF intends to get more solar panels installed on campus to hopefully set a precedent for future projects. The argument is simple: if solar panels are installed on the roof of a prominent building on campus, not only would they provide sustainable, renewable energy directly from the sun, but they would be visible, allowing all to see RPI’s bold and responsible steps toward the future. Solar panels could provide a financial benefit to a place like RPI, quickly paying off the cost of installation with the free energy brought in on a daily basis. Finally, with little to no moving parts, panels require very little maintenance.

Not only are solar panels currently financially beneficial, but renewable energy technologies are advancing so quickly that it is estimated that they will become truly cost-competitive in the near future, perhaps even within the next ten years. In fact, the Capital Region itself is a hotspot for renewable energy research. RPI and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University of Albany are both at the forefront of research in renewable energy technologies such as thin-film photovoltaics and new wind turbine designs. The technology is there; it’s simply a question of how to implement it.

As with many sustainability-related projects on campus, this implementation will require the participation of more than just one club or organization. Any help given is appreciated. All the expansion of green energy needs is willpower and support. If you are interested in assisting with this or any other sustainability-related efforts, please take part in the activities of the various sustainability-driven clubs on campus, as we strive for a better RPI.