Concerned students promote renewables
About 15 members of MSU Beyond Coal and other students gathered at the rock on Farm Lane on Thursday to push for renewable energy on campus.
Communication senior Nick Howison said other Big Ten universities, including the University of Illinois and University of Wisconsin-Madison, already have committed to wean themselves off coal power and he would like to see MSU do the same.
Since MSU is an athletic leader in the conference, he hopes the university will be a front-runner in sustainability as well, he said.
“We want to be true leaders of innovation and truly be Spartan green,” Howison said. “There’s a discrepancy as far as what we market and what we do.”
The MSU chapter of Beyond Coal was founded by the Sierra Club and Greenpeace last semester, said Talya Tavor, English junior and president of Beyond Coal.
Tavor said the group has a lot of support, but many students are unaware that the T.B. Simon Power Plant exists, she said.
Tavor said she hopes the university starts using wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy, something she sees as part of MSU’s commitment to environmental stewardship.
“We’re focusing on transitioning away from coal,” Tavor said. “Where we start is not necessarily where we’re going to end.”
The state also is a leading producer of solar panels, Howison said.
“It would be great to see some Michigan-made alternative energy … and say here’s an institution of higher education using solar energy,” Howison said.
Jennifer Battle, assistant director of the Office of Campus Sustainability, said the power plant already burns some natural gas.
The university also is pursuing using other renewable energy sources, but has to take its financial impact and reliability into account, she said.
“The power plant supports a large, tier-one institution, and the campus doesn’t tolerate brown-outs or black-outs,” Battle said.
MSU currently is pursuing permits to burn more renewables at the power plant, and some facilities on campus already are powered by solar and geothermal energy, including the Life Sciences Building, Battle said. The university also is part of the Chicago Climate Exchange, a voluntary program for the trading of greenhouse gases, she said.
“We’re all on the same page with reducing emissions,” Battle said. “It’s extremely important to the administration and
the community, and we’ve all been working toward the issue.”
No-preference sophomore Jessica Cyterski is an intern with Beyond Coal and went to the rally to support clean energy.
One of the problems with MSU’s power plant is that it imports coal from out of state, she said.
“Coal (pollution) is also a major cause for asthma and coal ash dumps are not regulated,” Cyterski said.
The group held signs that looked like solar panels and other posters asking MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon to “tackle dirty energy.”