Three months after the installation and activation of solar panels on six university-owned townhouses, Gary Guzy, deputy director and general counsel for the White House Council on Environmental Equality, lauded the university’s innovative approach at the project’s ceremonial launch Thursday.

The project, SolarStreet, aligns with University President John J. DeGioia’s pledge to cut Georgetown’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2020. The solar panels on the37th Street townhouses also make Georgetown the fourth-largest user of green power among U.S. colleges.

“Georgetown is becoming a model for how universities across the country are seeing clean energy,”Guzy said at the ceremony. “How you’re recognizing that sustainability can enhance the quality of community life. How it can save money, how it can be consistent with the university’s educational and research mission, how promoting innovation, promoting healthy communities and campuses are things that come together and are of tremendous import. … This is really an enormously impressive accomplishment of which the university and the university community should be tremendously proud.”

The rooftop systems will collectively produce nearly 20,000 kilowatts of electricity each year, equal to roughly 27 percent of the electricity currently used in the six residences.

Dan Mathis (SFS ’13), project manager of Georgetown Energy, a student group that collaborated with the Social Innovation and Public Service Fund and the university administration to get the solar panels up and running, stressed the project’s direct impact on fostering sustainability at Georgetown, as well as the precedent it set for strong partnerships between student groups and administrators.

Charlie Lowe/The Hoya Georgetown Energy project manager Dan Mathis (SFS '13) presents the group's solar panel project Thursday morning.
Charlie Lowe/The Hoya
Georgetown Energy project manager Dan Mathis (SFS ’13) presents the group’s solar panel project Thursday morning.

“By working together and constantly pushing each other, every member of this project, student or administrator, ensured the success of the Solar Street,” Mathis said. “I think this is evident in the large number of green projects from students and being considered by administrators since this project started.”

Mathis cited piezoelectric tiles in O’Donovan Hall, divestment of the university’s fossil fuel holdings and a community garden and composting as examples of initiatives administrators are considering or have already implemented.

Georgetown Energy originally proposed installing solar panels on 43 south-facing townhouses, which was budgeted $250,000 from the 2010 Student Activities Fee Endowment reform. The project only used $50,000 to install solar panels because only six townhouses have roofs capable of supporting solar energy equipment.

The remaining $200,000 will go to the Georgetown Green Fund under the Social Innovation and Public Service Fund, which provides funding for projects promoting sustainability.

GUSA’s former Director of Students Activities Fee and Endowment Implementation Colton Malkerson(COL ’13) said that although townhouse residents will continue to pay a flat rate for utilities, energy savings will roll back to the Georgetown University Student Association. The student association’s Finance and Appropriation Committee will have the discretion to allocate the funds to various advisory boards during next year’s budget summit, a structure Guzy regards as a model for environmental savings.

“You’ve heard these amazing statistics about the equivalent number of cars being taken off the road,”Guzy said, “about the dollars saving to the university ultimately and to its students about how that frees up other resources to do other important and great things at the university, about the importance of cutting greenhouse gases as the world grapples with the challenges of climate change. Solar Street is a great example of common purposes and the Obama administration is really proud to stand with you as you make these important investments.”

Malkerson also expressed optimism that the project marked the beginning of more green initiatives to come.

“Today, you saw a multi-year student project come to a full circle and a big success,” Malkerson said. “It’s a very small project, and it’s a down payment, but I think it just shows how Georgetown can continue to implement solar and energy efficient technology, and this serves as the down payment and starting point on further projects.”

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