Two sustainability-focused groups at the University of Washington, UW-Solar and the Green Greek Representative Program, are collaborating on a project that has sunny prospects and dazzling potential. Essentially, the two groups will be working together to determine opportunities for solar power in the UW Greek Community.
UW-Solar brings students and faculty together to carry out solar energy projects. The project tasks range from planning, governance, finance, design, development, economic, and environmental effects of infrastructure. These mid-to-short term solar power projects are small steps towards the long-run objectives of decarbonization, resilience, and information security.
Desiring to achieve similar goals, the Green Greek Representative Group works to make the Greek community a more sustainable place. So far, the Greek community has taken action to educate chapter members about recycling/composting, lighting efficiency, water conservation, and other general sustainability education topics. After focusing on many quick-fix problems, the Green Greek Representatives are now turning their attention to long-term projects.
“Using too much energy and using energy inefficiently are huge problems in the Greek Community,” Green Greek Coordinator Talia Haller said. “We want to see what we can do to power our community more efficiently, bring down energy costs, and source as much of our power from clean energy sources as possible."
The U-District, where the UW Greek Community resides, is powered by Seattle City Light. As of 2014, Seattle City Light already had a highly renewable fuel mix, including Hydro (90%), Nuclear (4%), and Wind (4%). Less than two percent of energy comes from coal and other fossil fuel sources. Yet many energy customers are still pursuing solar energy too close this small gap, as well as additional benefits like paying less for energy in the long-run or getting paid for your electricity.
Solar power in the UW Greek Community has many additional perks. “The greatest benefit of this collaborative project is the potential for student engagement,” said Stefanie Young, the project manager of UW-Solar. “The Greek Representatives involved with this project will gets hands-on experience working on a real-world energy project: they will be collecting data, preparing the feasibility audit, securing funding, facilitating construction management, as well as educating their chapter members.”
Through the summer, the Green Greek Representative Group is working to collect data from all 54 chapter houses, including roof plans, electricity information, and the age of the roofs. Come fall, UW-Solar will use this data, and the continued help and support from the Green Greeks, to conduct feasibility studies that answer questions such as: Is solar even feasible on chapter house roofs? Is it cost-competitive with what chapters are currently paying in energy costs? What will the return on investment be? Will solar power reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and if so, by how much? What would be the best system given project type/location? What are the funding possibilities? How will energy be monitored to quantify the success of results?
Depending on the outcome of the feasibility reports, the Green Greek Representative Group and UW-Solar will then work to determine the next steps. Regardless of whether solar power turns out to be feasible or not, this opportunity is a chance for collaboration, education, and dawning discovery.