Today I had the honor of hosting the ribbon cutting event for American Public University System’s (APUS) latest addition to its Charles Town campus, a 1,660 panel solar array. The array is the largest solar project in the state of West Virginia and will produce approximately 480,000 kWh of energy. The energy produced will provide between 40 and 50 percent of the energy needed to power the 105,000-square-foot green Finance Center which is under construction adjacent to the array and being built to US Green Building Council’s LEED Gold standards. The array features 15 universal electric car charging stations and doubles as covered parking for the university’s staff and guests. The array was fully constructed with American-made components and will produce enough electricity to power 30 average size homes annually. To equate this to vehicles and commuting, the amount of electricity generated by the array would enable the average gas-powered vehicle to travel 1.9 million miles, the equivalent of 120 commuters driving 15,000 miles each year.
I was joined at our ribbon cutting event by several notable dignitaries including West Virginia Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito. Vice Mayor of Charles Town, Don Clendening and Mayor of neighboring Ranson, David Hamill were also on hand to commemorate this event. Congresswoman Capito, Vice Mayor Clendening, and Mayor Hamill have all expressed and demonstrated their own commitments to sustainability and sustainable development so it was especially fitting to have them in attendance. We were able to demonstrate the universal electric car charging stations thanks to three local car dealerships (Apple Valley Chevrolet in Martinsburg, Younger Auto Group in Frederick and Hagerstown, and Renn Kirby Mitsubishi in Frederick) that showcased their own electric vehicles during the event. The APUS Sustainability Committee also hosted an information booth to share information with visitors about the university’s comprehensive sustainability initiatives.
Today’s event and the comprehensive sustainability program at APUS not only represent our own commitment to sustainability but also illustrate the American spirit of ingenuity and innovation in general. It was as much about providing renewable energy for our university as it was about making a commitment to our local and extended communities that we will continue to work to promote a more sustainable future for us all. In 2007 when I signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) as a charter signatory, I did so because I believe higher education has a unique opportunity to shape the future of the nation in addressing the issues associated with climate change.
With access to some of the best and brightest minds, higher education would be remiss if it did not use that opportunity to address one of the nation’s – the world’s – most pressing problems. The hallowed halls of the university can, in the most traditional sense, be seen as places for the exchange of theory and ideas. Higher education has a unique opportunity, however, to lead by example and turn those theories and ideas into action.