Solar panels arrive on campus

Aubrey Lathrop

Solar panels will be installed on the rooftops of the PepsiCo Rec Center, Carver P.E. Center, Centennial Hall and Westerlin, according to an email sent from Augustana College to the campus community.
Kai Swanson, assistant to the president, was a member of the Augustana Climate Change Task Force last year and is involved in their shift to a sustainability committee. He said solar panels are projected to produce 8% of campus electricity, but that number is expected to grow over time.
“We may find that within 5 years, we can take advantage of other roofs, we may find that there are new technologies that bring wind in. The other is, as a community, take responsibility for our own usage patterns,” Swanson said.
Co-chair of the Task Force, Michael Reisner, said that the initial 8% of campus energy isn’t a solid statistic.
“That number is going to vary a lot depending on the time of year and the actual time of day, you know, when the electricity really surges here,” Reisner said.
The director of sustainability reports up to Kirk Anderson, who said there are certain problems that come with retro-fitting these spaces. 
“When we first started, what we found is that we had a number of older buildings with older roofs, which aren’t really that conducive to putting solar panels on top because it could damage them or compromise the roof,” Anderson said.
Sophomore Darby Burk is the president of the Augustana Local Agricultural Society. She believes that the addition of solar panels represents a good start for Augustana’s climate activism.
“I think it’s a good starting point for moving toward self-sustainability and it’s really nice to see Augustana take that big step towards self-sustainability with the addition of solar panels, and I think we definitely need to keep this momentum going,” Burk said
Along with the addition of solar panels, Augustana has been employing other ways to increase campus sustainability.
“There’s an ongoing project…to replace all the lighting on campus with more efficient LED lighting,” Reisner said.
There’s also the Presidential Green Initiatives Fund, which offers financial support to students who propose ways to better the campus environment. One of these projects has been to plant pocket pollinators around the Belltower hill.
“We’re seeing on Founders Hill that [it] will have lasting repercussions that will last for many years, even if we don’t do anything,” Swanson said. “Just by planting native species that are better at sequestering carbon.”
There are also ways that Augustana could still improve. Burk believes that the college could facilitate a more engaging conversation with students, allowing them to receive more feedback.
“I think the students who live on campus 24/7 would have really good input on, say, different buildings that would need to be upgraded,” Burk said. “Contacting, or sending out a survey maybe to students, saying, ‘What do you want to see on campus?’ Yeah, I think that would be definitely helpful in the future.”
As Augustana works to create a better campus environment, Swanson said that it’s important to remember that change can’t be created with just one person.
“I have great hope because I have children and I have grandchildren, and I want them to have a healthy world, and that won’t result from any one entity, be it a college, a state, a nation, anything like that, laying down some dictum and saying ‘This is the way it’s got to be,’ it’ll be from all of us realizing that we are our sibling’s keeper,” Swanson said.