BY HOLLY DEREMO
Published November 29, 2011
For months there has been speculation and closed door talk of a new construction project on North Campus. On Sept. 27, University President Mary Sue Coleman formally announced that a solar panel field would be constructed in partnership with DTE Energy. The solar panels will be located on North Campus, and it’s been said that the project could begin to materialize in as little as six months. In my years as an environmental studies student, I’ve read many an article discussing the pros and cons of solar panel arrays. At this point in time, some PV (photo voltaic, the blackish blue panels) run at an incredibly low efficiency. Some of the best panels max out around the 20 percent range. With the large costs associated with a project like this, I can’t help but wonder if the University's money could be better spent elsewhere.
Don’t get me wrong — I am all for clean, sustainable, enduring energy solutions. In fact, I’m an advocate for them. However, when a decision is made to use a product or system that isn’t an efficient choice, I’m bound to have some questions. At the University, Electrical and Computer Engineering Prof. Stephen Rand has been studying the profound effects of magnetic waves on increasing Solar Panel Efficiency. Rand has even attracted the attention of the Department of Defense in Washington DC. What if we spent the millions that the North Campus solar project will require by funding more ground-breaking research efforts like Rand's? The University is already a leading research institution, but what if we became the frontrunners of developing efficient solar energy? There are endless possibilities.
The University has reached an intersection, a crossroads if you will, when the paths of public relations, community presence, University development and reputation cross — it can be a slippery slope making sure all aspects are balanced and accurately considered.