Four thousand three hundred total solar panels that produce one megawatt (MW) of power sit on the roofs of most of the buildings here on campus: Fermanian, Gold Gym, Goodwin, Bond, Cooper, Draper, Hendricks, Klassen and Young, just to name a few.
That’s enough energy generated to power 164 homes according to Trisha Stull, the Sustainability Officer here at Point Loma Nazarene University.
At PLNU, 90 percent of the total energy used is clean, renewable energy. Fifteen percent of the total energy on campus comes from solar panels. Fifteen percent comes from San Diego Gas & Electric, 35 percent of which is green. And lastly, 70 percent comes from Wind Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).
RECs are way for a house, or in this case a university, to offset their emissions of fossil fuels by purchasing green energy that comes from a renewable source like solar, water or wind. Even if the renewable sources aren’t on the campus, the university can still buy RECs.
“So even if we’re not getting it [the energy] directly from us, like maybe the wind energy was produced in a different state, we are paying to ensure that that energy is being produced,” Stull said. “And we get credit for that.”
Dr. April Cordero, Professor of Biology at Point Loma, says that RECs are essential to help companies and universities offset their fossil fuel usage.
“These people, if they needed to use energy and they can’t have a zero carbon impact, they can do these offsets and make up for the damage that they are creating,” Cordero said.
Stull has been working at PLNU as a Sustainability Officer for close to three years and has made some improvements in terms of green energy on campus.
When she came in, the contract that helped PLNU purchase renewable energy was coming to an end and most of the RECs were expired, so Stull got to work. She purchased more RECs, renewed the contract, and continued to use the energy produced by the solar panels.
“It’s nice to have them [the solar panels] on campus because it’s an educational tool,” Stull said. “People can actually see that this is actually renewable technology, this is what it looks like, our school’s doing these types of things.”
Even though the renewable energy percentage is high, the university still has a carbon footprint. The majority of that footprint comes from commuting and air travel for students, athletes and faculty to things like events, games and conferences.
Cordero explains how she tries to negate her carbon output from flying by donating to an organization that plants trees and plants all over the world.
“It’s just a way of walking the talk instead of just doing whatever I want and saying ‘Oh, bummer, I’m harming the environment, oh well,’” said Cordero. “It’s a way you can sleep well at night knowing that you’re doing what you can do to make up for any of the damage that you might be causing.”
There are steps that both students and the school can do to reduce their negative energy usage habits like putting LED bulbs in, turning the heater off when they leave the room and shortening showers which helps reduce energy usage in addition to water usage.
“Nobody takes a long, cold shower,” Cordero said. “They take a long, hot shower. A hot shower uses energy to heat up the water, so that’s something a student can do.”
Another way Stull is getting students involved in the sustainability movement is implementing a new program called Creation Care Advocates. This program is for students interested in protecting the environment and helping with awareness of environmental problems on campus.
Sophomore biology major, Mackenzie Harder is one of the Creation Care Advocates and being in the first full year of the program, she is excited to educate her fellow peers about sustainability.
“Sustainability is our future,” Harder said over an email with The Point. “And as young adults, we are in an age where we start establishing our own habits and routines. As Creation Care Advocates, we are on campus to make sure our peers are conscious of the decisions they make and impact they have on this earth.”