Maui College poised to be a 'net zero' campus
- In less than a year, Maui College may become the first college campus in the nation to generate 100% of its energy use from solar and battery resources, making it the lead institution in a University of Hawaii System effort to become "net zero," or independent of non-renewable energy sources by 2035.
- A campus-wide solar array will power the campus' energy needs when fully operational next year. UH System officials tell Fast Company that its renewable energy infrastructure development will save the system about $78 million in energy spending, and has resulted in a workforce development partnership with the performance contracting company responsible for developing the solar power system for UH's 10 campuses.
- UH Associate Vice President Michael Unebasami told Fast Company that the project, which first yielded discussions in the 1980s, also helped the university to address costly deferred maintenance projects with virtually no impact to capital budgets, as renewable energy contractors pay for upgrades up front and recoup profits from energy savings.
The University of Hawaii System's solar energy initiative provides an example of how innovation and necessity can combine to save money in a variety of ways. The system will save spending in the short-term on energy, construction and renovations; build its local and national profile with an enterprise-level investment in clean energy and create career opportunities for its students. In many ways, it is the ideal showcase of public-private partnerships between higher education and industry, which can serve the greater good of surrounding cities and regions.
Other institutions have similar opportunities with the career development aspects of these kinds of collaborative relationships. Schools like the University of Wisconsin Extension launch programs with data detailing industrial trends in hiring, regional competition and staying power. Purdue University's Homeland Security Institute actively recruits active duty military members to consider advanced degree study at the university, to help infuse real-world application models within the classroom environment.
Considering ways to broker deals with private companies or government to help lower costs of operations and to provide students with credentials or work experience, while returning economic impact, talent pools or broader exposure to the general public for the investing partners or entities is essential to the survival of higher ed as an enterprise.