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Washington University, St. Louis Leverages Solar for Student Engagement, Workforce Development

By Better Buildings Beat Team on May 14, 2019

Multitasking is an essential part of keeping on top of your to-do list, and our Better Buildings partners are no exception when it comes to achieving their energy goals. Many of these organizations incorporate staff/occupant engagement efforts into their overall energy and sustainability goals, and those engagement efforts can also be an opportunity to develop new professional skills.

In the Higher Education sector, partners leverage workforce training and student development in their energy efficiency projects on campus as part of their larger sustainability efforts. Recently, Better Buildings Challenge partner Washington University in St. Louis used a new $3.5 million solar PV installation project as a way to engage students and give them experience in working to incorporate renewable power. In partnership with WashU’s Office of Sustainability, Environmental Studies Program, and a local renewable energy support services company, the University developed the Renewable Energy Student Engagement Team (RESET) program.

The RESET program provided 18 WashU students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with industry professionals on the university’s solar project by helping site the installations on campus, participating in the power purchase agreement process, and by expanding their knowledge of the business, policy, and engineering facets of the renewable energy industry. Students were split into teams focusing on distinct areas, like engineering, policy, and finance, and received independent study credit for the work. Solar professionals hosted numerous lectures on industry topics, such as project delivery methods and differences between design-build and design-bid-build.

The RESET program not only gave students real-world experience to prepare them for future internships and jobs, it provided the school with the capacity to complete its 1.9 MW solar expansion. Once the new installations are completed in Fall 2019, WashU’s overall solar-generating capacity will be nearly 2.5 MW – the emissions equivalent of taking 480 cars off the road!

Learn more about what Better Buildings partners are doing on the Better Buildings Solution Center.

Image Source: Washington University Sustainability