EMU should embrace solar power

Solar panels are being installed in the parking lot of Taft High School in Woodland Hills, California, on March 27, 2012. California schools are turning to solar in hopes of saving billions state-wide on energy. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Imagine walking past Eastern Michigan University’s Pray-Harrold building and glancing up to see solar panels harnessing the power of the sun. The reality is, we have a vast untapped solar resource but continue to depend on outdated energy sources like coal, gas and oil that pollute our air and water and drain our natural resources.

Michigan spends billions of dollars every year importing dirty energy from other states and countries. Coal alone is one of the largest sources of soot, smog and other particulate pollution, which contributes to poor air quality and causes asthma attacks and other serious health problems for Michiganders.

Solar power is a homegrown solution to these major problems. Installing solar panels around EMU’s campus will support the local economy rather than spending money out-of-state on coal, gas and fossil fuels and will lead us to a cleaner energy future.

This fall, Ypsilanti City Council approved a climate action plan based on the greenhouse gas emissions of the city and our university. Funded by a state grant and facilitated by local partners, the plan provides background and a cohesive picture of many existing initiatives relating to our energy use and environment. The strategies were decided upon after much community engagement and reflection on reducing our environmental impact today and in the future.

The plan also set the stage for a greater conversation about energy in Ypsilanti. As the largest institution in the city, EMU has a responsibility to address these issues as well. The immediate environmental and health benefits of pollution-free solar energy are evident with reductions in asthma, eliminating toxicity in our water and cleaning our air. EMU should support and utilize solar energy as a viable option for a cleaner future.

Solar energy is growing by leaps and bounds, and it’s only going to keep rising. While workers continue to be laid off as we recover from the recession, solar employment is expected to grow by 17.2 percent through 2013 and to add nearly 20,000 new solar workers nationwide. Through the work of committed solar enthusiasts like SolarYpsi, there are already 13 major solar installations in Ypsilanti. As students, bringing more solar energy to Ypsilanti will be beneficial to us as we venture into the working world, especially given that alternative energy courses are offered on campus.

EMU has the opportunity to join this solar growth and contribute to Ypsilanti becoming a national leader in solar power. We ask that EMU commit to having a solar installation on campus and support the city in setting a goal of 1,000 solar roofs by 2020 to make Ypsilanti a solar destination.

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