College News

UW-Stout students win battle for solar panels

UW-Madison used about 70 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy this school year, which is roughly 15 percent of the campus’ total energy use.

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Here comes the sun—and the solar panels—at UW-Stout. Previously one of only two UW System schools operating without renewable energy, their Sustainability Council received funding for the panels after pushback from administration.

“To me, our recent campaign success is a huge feat,” said UW-Stout Director of Sustainability Committee Maggie Thesing. “Getting solar panels on campus is huge for us and we’re happy to finally get our foot in the door with renewable energy on campus.”

Earlier this year, the Seize the Grid campaign wanted to use UW-Stout’s segregated fees, also known as the Green Fee, to finance solar energy from outside of the university. After System blocked the original project, Seize the Grid made adjustments which allowed them to purchase a solar canopy with the fee.

According to Thesing, the campaign’s two projects—the group’s original solar panel initiative and the solar canopy—will cost a combined total of approximately $121,210. UW-Stout’s Green Fee will finance both projects.

“The solar panels that we will be installing with help of some of the university’s energy bill but it’s really only a drop in an ocean,” Thesing said. “We still have a long way but we have driven students, faculty and staff and I am confident in Seize the Grid’s campaign.”

Since the win, administration has changed their tune. Thesing said that the campaign has received positive feedback from the university and students.

“We’ve had such a good reaction from the campus overall and we’re looking at where else we can get renewable energy to reach Seize the Grid’s goal,” Thesing said.

But despite the progress, Thesing does not think the campaign win will spur a shift toward green energy in the UW System anytime soon.

“While our solar panel project was a huge feat for Stout I still believe we are far from the whole UW System going to green energy,” Thesing said. “It will take a huge company like Xcel Energy to go to completely green energy before Stout or even the whole UW System. But this goal is doable and there is a lot of momentum within the campaign.”

UW-Stout’s original solar panel initiative will be up and running before fall and the solar canopy is slated for 2020.

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