The University of Washington is helping to lead a nationwide movement among institutions of higher education to improve their environmental stewardship and focus on sustainability. Indeed, environmental stewardship is an inescapable fact of life at UW—and not just in the academic and research arenas, although it is there, too.
With the rising cost of oil and tensions building in the Middle East, the need for more sustainable energy sources is becoming more urgent. Unfortunately, most alternate energy sources are more expensive than oil, restricting their marketability and usage. This is the problem that Alex Jen, director of the UW’s Institute of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE), has been trying to solve regarding solar power.
When someone mentions “renewable energy,” what comes to mind? Solar panels on a roof? Biodiesel-powered cars? The term covers several technologies that could power the green economy of the future. However, one type of renewable energy is beginning to emerge as the best alternative to fossil fuels: wind power.
A 2007 report by the Global Wind Energy Council estimated that wind power generated 94 gigawatts of electricity worldwide, up from just 7.6 gigawatts in 1997. They project that by 2012, this number will be closer to 240 gigawatts.
An old adage says there are two sides to every story; yesterday evening, a public forum on United States energy policy proved a caveat to that truth. Four expert panelists representing climate science, legislative policy, economics and industry spoke about the priorities they believe will best serve the next president.
Given the proximity to what many consider a critical election, the forum provided important background information and answers to the UW community and the general public.
Reporting by The New York Times about a recent battle between two neighbors in Sunnyvale, Calif., shows that some environmentalists aren’t friends. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.
One couple planted eight redwood trees that cast shadows on their neighbor’s rooftop solar panels. The owner of the panels brought the couple to court, prosecuting under the Solar Shade Act.
Judge Kurt Kumli of the Santa Clara County Superior Court ruled that no more than 10 percent of the panels could be cast in shade and ordered that the trees be pruned.
Many water and lighting outlets are sucking energy at an unneeded rate. One UW team is hoping to conserve energy in UW sororities and fraternities by swapping out older light bulbs for more energy efficient bulbs.
The Greener Greeks project was created to educate students about energy and water efficiency and create ways to further seek change. Chris Bruno, member of the conservation project development team and former UW SEED director, and Angie Gaffney from Chi Omega, created the project.
At the conference, a papier-mâché polar bear and a petition with 1,000 signatures was presented to Sen. Craig Pridemore (D-WA), asking that the Washington state legislature make climate change and other environmental issues a top priority.
Junior Tamara Mitchell gave a speech addressing why climate change is an important issue for the legislature and important to college students across the country.
Yesterday, bundled-up UW students hustled across the Quad, heading to class a little early to seek respite from the brisk January air. Few know that the heat they find inside University buildings is generated by the UW’s own power plant, located just across the street from the Intramural Activities building (IMA).
Those participating in the tour will work on individual projects and learn how tribes are maintaining their resources.
"The Udall Foundation bus tour is highlighting solutions across the country to our environmental and Native American issues," said Kayanna Warren, the sustainable universities coordinator and UW graduate. "We've been doing events ranging from bringing kids into national parks to do photography, to habitat restoration, to visiting tribal communities and attending symposia on health care, to putting on a sustainability-themed art show in the Denver Union Station."
Renewable energy sources are a hot topic right now as the finite supply of fossil fuels rapidly dwindles. The scientific community is turning to alternate sources of energy, including wind, solar and now, possibly tidal energy.
The UW has signed an agreement with the Snohomish County Public Utilities District (PUD) to study tidal currents in Puget Sound, investigating sites where underwater turbines might use these currents to generate power.