The Chronicle’s View: Wind power is worth the extra dollar

For the price of a cup of coffee or king-size candy bar, students can make a significant impact on the environment-and not even realize it. But the ball is now out of students’ hands and in the court of the Utah State Board of Regents, which meets today to decide if it will approve a $1 per semester student fee to purchase renewable energy.

Actually, many students are aware of and in support of the student-led campaign to purchase enough wind power each year-2.7 million kilowatt hours of electricity-to cut carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 3,000 pounds per year. Hats off to Terra Firma, a U environmental group that has worked tirelessly for more than a year to make the purchase a reality. With any hope, the Regents will recognize their efforts and approve the minimal fee increase.

Clearly, the benefits outnumber the costs associated with the purchase of wind power. In addition to reducing harmful chemicals emitted into the air by burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, the wind-power purchase would save 6.4 million gallons of water per year-a significant amount, considering Utah is still in a drought, even in spite of record snowfall this winter.

Another advantage to supplying a portion of the U’s exorbitant electricity consumption with wind power is that it supports local companies. Either Utah Power or Wasatch Wind (a new wind turbine development in Spanish Fork Canyon) would supply the wind power. This is beneficial for the Utah economy and would potentially provide additional jobs for Utahns.

The student fee would also eliminate some of the rising costs of electricity at the U-a growing concern for administrators faced with a tight budget.

It sends a message to the rest of the state that the U is willing to recognize and help alleviate the negative impact of the 235 million kilowatt hours of electricity it consumes each year. As the largest purchase of wind power in the state-the proposed fee increase would generate approximately $60,000 per year-it would set the standard for environmental responsiveness and encourage other institutions to follow suit.

Besides, when students identify a problem and work together to find a feasible solution to it, their efforts should be recognized. Although the revenues from the appropriated student fees would only cover a small amount of the U’s electricity, it is a step in the right direction and will set the stage for further developments in the quest to use other alternative, environmentally friendly forms of energy.