Trinity needs to invest, not divest

A case for solar energy

In a student’s time at Trinity University, one thing they are sure to find is a group of students or a whiteboard in the Coates Student Center calling for the university to divest. However, in all of my encounters with the divestment movement on campus, I feel they have focused on the wrong argument for our campus. The focus should instead be on investment and its feasibility.

Firstly, what is divestment? On campus, divestment means the university would transfer investment from the oil and natural gas industries to renewable energy sources like wind and solar. This transition from fossil fuels would also include not taking money or donations from these industries and not relying on them for energy. However, this will likely never happen, especially for a school constantly looking at new construction. There is simply too much money involved to ignore. This is not a disadvantage though and should be used to Trinity’s advantage.

When I think of the university becoming less reliant on fossil fuels for energy, I do not think of refusing to take their money, but instead using the funds provided to consider solar on campus. Although a public district, I think back to what my old school district did. In California, energy is very expensive and the open-air schools get very hot for half of the school year, so they devised a plan to kill two birds with one stone. Saddleback Valley Unified School District installed solar panels across campuses to provide shade to parking lots and strategic areas. The plan was costly, but ultimately both students and the district enjoyed it. It saved the district money in the long run and made campus a little bit cooler.

Something similar could be done at Trinity. If the university is going to be progressive, then it needs conservatives to ensure it is being progressive for the right reasons. Installing solar panels over the student and Alamo Stadium parking lots would provide plenty of energy to the school and provide students with cooler and safer locations to park their vehicles. At Trinity, peak energy consumption will be at the same time as peak energy production, so the university will not need expensive, top-of-the-line batteries and can rely on the Texas power grid for evening to morning hours. Although it will not guarantee that solar will be financially feasible on Trinity, it will make solar cheaper than it otherwise would be.

In reality, Trinity can not be 100% reliant on solar power, and neither could my old high school, even though they get roughly 30% more sunny days a year than Trinity (283 vs. 220).

In other words, the future of Trinity University, and the energy industry as a whole, needs to focus on making investments, not divestments.