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Students, faculty brainstorm to provide MSU buildings with renewable energy

March 19, 2012

Just a few days ago, chemical engineering junior Kimberly Lebioda had only heard of MSU’s plans to transition into a campus fueled by 100 percent renewable energy. Now she is being trained as a leader of a project that could do just that.

Last week, six students met in the Union to work on a project that could be used as a template to transition all of MSU’s buildings to 100 percent renewable energy under the Energy Transition Plan.

Environmental economics and policy senior Joe Hagerty said the final goal is to take three buildings — the Cowles House, Olds Hall and Abrams Planetarium — off of the main current power source, the MSU Power Plant.

They received a $43,626 grant from the Office of Campus Sustainability in fall 2011 and will be using the grant for at least the next year as they develop the plan, said Jennifer Battle, assistant director for the Office of Campus Sustainability. Hagerty was one of the leaders in developing the plan, and Battle said it was chosen because it was in line with the university’s overall goals to eventually transition to solely renewable energy and reduce reliance on coal energy.

“Projects that were rewarded have an impact on university goals — goals about 15 percent energy reduction, 15 percent green house gas reduction and a 30 percent waste reduction,” Battle said.

The students have been working closely with associate professor of mechanical engineering Andre Benard’s Design of Alternative Energy Systems class and Green Economy Leadership Training — an organization based in Highland Park, Mich., which aims to build a large-scale, environmentally conscious economy while educating and training its participants — to implement the plan, Hagerty said.

Hagerty, who also is a member of the Steering Committee, said the group hopes to involve students, faculty and administrators in developing the template.

Working closely with Hagerty, Benard said his students primarily have been studying alternative forms of energy such as wind turbines this semester. Originally, the students studied the effect such energy would have on Lansing, and by the end of the semester, students will study ways to bring the energy to MSU’s campus, Benard said.

“It is an important problem to address, and the buildings we’re looking at could be used as a template for renovating other buildings on campus,” Benard said.

Lebioda was recently added to the group to help campaign for student involvement during the upcoming academic year.

“There is definitely a lot to take on, being a new member,” Lebioda said. “But I’m definitely excited to be a part of such an important impact on MSU, because we are taking the steps toward making changes in sustainability.”

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