Campus Climate Challenge raises funds for solar panel

Maggie Allen

After a successful first semester, with such triumphs as Power Vote and an Anderson blackout, the Campus Climate Challenge is ready to tackle solar panels on top of Jewett.

Because of Jewett’s very large flat roof, 130 solar panel “modules” will hopefully be installed on top of the freshman dorm. Each module is 1,984 square inches and produces about .08 watts of electricity, totaling 257,920 square inches of solar module. This would be enough energy to power the dorm during the summer when the college may hold conferences on campus.

The solar panels would also be used as an educational tool for the Whitman and Walla Walla communities. The project itself will offset power costs at the current per kWH rate of $.04, and will make the college eligible for tax incentives through Washington State’s Investment Cost Recovery Program.

“Over a period of five years, the college would see about $18,000 in savings,” Jed Schwendiman, associate to the president, said.

The college is working with Alpha Technology in Bellingham to design the actual system and keep the total costs as low as possible. A representative from Alpha has visited a couple times to make measurements and collect information.

“As far as I know,” said Gary Wang, sophomore co-president of CCC, “The solar panels would be hooked into Whitman’s energy grid.”

The 23kw solar panel array would cost between $170,000 to $180,000, each square inch costing about 70 cents, each square foot $100, and each square yard $900. However, the club is unsure of how much the college and student groups have raised so far this year.

“The college is always looking for ways to reduce costs without compromising the size and quality of the solar system,” said Wang.

The college has won a $51,750 grant from Pacific Power over the summer, which will be used to fund this project.

To raise more money, Campus Climate Challenge is currently doing a large fund-raising campaign. Students in the club have signed up for specific numbers of pre-written letters.

“We’re just talking to people and asking them if they want to send these letters to parents, relatives, or friends: anyone who would be interested in this project and perhaps contributing towards it,” Wang said.

Last year, Campus Climate Challenge collectively raised over $14,000, which is now being used for the solar panel project.

To expedite the fund-raising process, CCC has included the solar panel project as a gift option in the Alternative Gift Market that the Center of Community Service has sponsored. They are selling ten square inches of solar panel for $7.

Other groups and individuals are also involved with this collaborative project.

The Alternative Energy Student Fund Team put together a letter as part of their annual fund raising efforts, and the class of 1999 is raising funds for the solar project as part of their ten-year reunion gift.

“Professor Bob Carson has also written a letter to many of his former students to support the project,” Schwendiman said, “Some staff and faculty have made personal gifts to the project, and the Development Office is also working with individuals and applying for additional grants. All the funds being raised go into an account that will be used for the solar panel project.”

The club is aiming to finish fund-raising by the end of spring semester. Wang expects donations to come in as the semester progresses, but the letters will be going out this week and the next.

After the letters, the team hopes the construction will begin.

“We expect to have detailed installation plans from Alpha at the end of the semester or the first part of the next year,” said Schwendiman, “We hope to install the panels over the summer.”