By Matt Tenuto
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – Students are suggesting that the Blackwood campus of Camden County College gets solar panels to cut energy costs. Experts say converting to solar energy can also save natural resources and reduce harmful emissions.
“I went to Lindenwold High School and they had solar panels located in the parking lot. They gave energy to the school and acted as an umbrella in the rain,” Nita Mejia, a business administration major, said recently.
The savings over a 30-year period by converting to solar energy with a standard solar panel installation could be more than $1 million for 60 percent of schools, according to REC Solar, a company that installs solar panels at schools. The 3,727 systems the company installed generate enough energy to offset 50 million gallons of gasoline.
About two thirds of the electricity used comes from burning fossil fuels, according to the United States Energy Information Administration. Some harmful byproducts of burning fossil fuels are carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and mercury. Carbon dioxide contributes to the greenhouse effect, which traps heat on Earth. Sulfur dioxide makes acid rain, which in turn hurts plants and animals that live in water, and worsens respiratory sicknesses mostly in young children and senior citizens. Nitrogen oxides irritate and damage lungs. Particulate matter contributes to asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer. Mercury is hazardous to animal and human health.
“Installing solar panels is a great idea, because I use my phone and laptop in all of my classes and I have to charge them sometimes, so I definitely use the school’s energy,” said Brooke Martin, a pre-nursing major.
In 2011, Butte College became the first college to become grid positive, meaning it generated more energy than it used. Its energy project, which includes 25,000 solar panels, will save taxpayers and the college more than $100 million over the next 30 years, according to the college.
Camden County College Executive Director of Financial Administrative Services Maris Kukainis said the Camden County College does not plan on installing solar panels.
“Currently our focus is on reducing our energy consumption by replacing existing lighting with LEDs, resurfacing our roofs and improving our HVAC systems, including controls,” Kukainis said. “These initiatives have saved the college hundreds of thousands of dollars in lower utility bills over the past couple of years.”
The combined bill for electricity on the Blackwood, Camden, Cherry Hill and Regional Emergency Training Center campuses is about $3 million a years, Kukainis said.