by Gunnar Norback (Earth and Environmental Science major, Class of 2017)
In 2012, Unity College became the first institution of higher education in the nation with an investment portfolio completely divested from fossil fuels. America’s Environmental College led the charge for higher education to invest in the future of students, a future built around renewable energy sources. Now time arrived for for the Unity College campus to follow in the footstep of its endowment, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing renewable energy.
A strategic plan adopted by the Unity College Board of Trustees in 2014 sets the institution on track to be a carbon dioxide neutral campus by 2020. This model supersedes the national plan proposed by the EPA to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the United States by only 30% by 2030. Unity College is again ready to set the standard and lead the charge for academia to make the right decision.
Photovoltaic arrays, commonly referred to as solar panels, are a cost effective and efficient manner of meeting the institutions energy needs. PV will be incorporated into new construction as well as retrofitted to meet the needs of existing facilities. The existing 35 kilowatt PV array affixed to Unity’s Quimby Library produces 42,000 kilowatt hours annually, providing the school with $5,880 of energy each year.
Large scale adoption of a photovoltaic array as the primary source for electricity for Unity College will produce more than the 1 million kilowatt hours used annually by the institution. PV panels will be installed on south facing roofs, ground mounted in unused fields as well as strategically placed near classroom facilities to allow ease of access for educational purposes.
Once the photovoltaic infrastructure is in place, oil furnaces can be decommissioned in existing structures to be replaced by pellet boilers and electric air-source heat pumps. Further progress and renovation in existing structures will be made according to the specifications and needs of each.
The mission of Unity College provides a liberal arts education through the framework of sustainability. The development of cutting edge energy solutions on campus will provide access to Unity College students for relevant experience in the field of sustainability science, which can be applied upon graduation.
Students currently enrolled at Unity College are privileged to be here now. The time has come where change must be made, the institution has charted a course investing in the future of the world’s youth, each and every Unity College students holds a key role in this investment. Unity College students will capitalize on this opportunity to align their values as well as careers with mitigating the effects of the most pressing issue of today: climate change.