On Tuesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Pat Hogan, University executive vice president and chief operating officer, unveiled the University’s action plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions during an Earth Week Expo at the Newcomb Hall Ballroom. The plan consists of directly powering University buildings with solar energy and making University employees and students more aware of sustainable practices and programs — an important milestone in the University’s work on sustainability. It is important to recognize the contributions our University is making in the renewable energy movement, and to encourage a move to more sustainable practices throughout Virginia.
The ceremony dedicated the first University-owned, large-scale solar array, located on Clemons Library. The 324-panel solar array, which began construction last October, will be producing about 199,600 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, or about 15 percent of the library’s annual electric draw. Moreover, the University’s action plan includes improvements to the efficiency of buildings’ heating plants, chiller plants and distribution systems, as well as a shift to alternate energy technologies. Sustainability systems such as these not only provide for a cleaner environment, but also lower energy costs and create jobs for local workers. According to McAuliffe, Virginia has gone from 1,600 to almost 3,500 jobs in the solar industry.
The University administration’s efforts to promote sustainability have been extensive in recent years. Last year, the University launched its Sustainability Plan, a comprehensive five-year plan which outlines 23 goals and specific milestones along the way toward sustainability. One of its most notable goals is to reduce University-wide greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 2009 levels by 2025. In 2013, the Board of Visitors also agreed to reduce the University’s nitrogen footprint, and signed on to the U.S. Department of Energy’s goal of reducing building energy use to 20 percent below 2010 levels by 2020. Through initiatives like these, the University has put itself at the forefront of the renewable energy movement in Virginia.
As University students, we have a responsibility to actively contribute to the University’s sustainable future. We also have an obligation to educate ourselves on sustainable practices and programs, so that we are able to make certain modifications in our daily routines which could cumulatively add up to a reduction in greenhouse gases. Other public institutions in the Commonwealth should follow the University’s example in minimizing their environmental impact and improving Virginia’s contribution to solar energy generation.