Alternative Energy Picking Up Steam

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

No matter how much some on this blog protest, the move to alternative energy sources is picking up momentum across the country.

I was in South Carolina last week visiting my brother. Pictured is a large array of solar panels adjacent to a huge Walmart distribution center. An electrical co-op also had solar panels outside one of its administration buildings. These were in rural, western South Carolina, near the Georgia border. No one can accuse those folks of being woke, progressive Democrats.

As described in an article in The Washington Post, higher ed institutions around the country are moving to reduce their carbon footprint. There are some innovative approaches. Ball State University in Indiana replaced its 70-year-old heating system with the largest geothermal plant in the country. That move cut its carbon footprint in half and saves the school $3 million a year in energy costs. The University of Iowa has switched to a biomass energy facility. The leftover oat hulls from a Quaker Oats production facility, approximately 40,000 tons annually, are its primary fuel source. The school also grows and harvests miscanthus grass, a bamboo-like grass that grows to 12 feet tall, for its biomass plant. For those people who lament that solar panels are diminishing farmland, they need to visit the University of Minnesota at Morris. There they will see more than 600 solar panels placed eight feet above the ground with cattle grazing and crops flourishing around them. The school also has two giant wind turbines.  The combination of alternative sources annually produces twice the electricity the school needs. It exports the surplus to the town.

Virginia institutions of higher education are beginning to take steps to reduce the carbon emissions on their campuses. Second Nature is an organization “committed to accelerating climate action in and through higher education.” The presidents of eleven public and private Virginia colleges and universities have made “a formal commitment with respect to climate leadership on their campus.” The commitment involves pledging to reduce carbon emissions and promote resilience. The public Virginia institutions on the list are George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Radford University.