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SGEF council approves about $277,000 in project funding

In a unanimous vote Wednesday morning, the Student Green Energy Fund (SGEF) council decided to use the student fee to fund four projects proposed earlier this semester.

The council, which met for the first time to discuss and vote on the 14 proposals submitted, had initially anticipated spending $400,000 on the projects. However, approximately $100,000 of that money was allocated toward other assessed fees, hiring full-time SGEF fund manager Zaida Darley and buying monitoring equipment to calculate energy savings. Some of it was lost due to students dropping courses, said Director of the Office of Sustainability Christian Wells.

“One of the most productive aspects of the whole process is not really the money that we’re putting forward for these projects,” he said. “It’s the fact that, in this case, we have 14 really detailed project proposals that were created.”

The approved projects will require about $277,000 of the available $300,000 in SGEF fees, USF’s first student-approved and financed fee that costs $1 per credit hour. The rest of the money will roll over to the spring cycle of the SGEF fund, Wells said.

The most expensive project came from a group mainly consisting of engineering students that requested $160,000 to add solar panels to the roof of the Marshall Student Center (MSC), as well as build a canopy over the building’s outdoor amphitheater.

The students intend on completing the project by the end of the spring semester and estimate it will save $4,000 annually, Wells said. They also got expert advice from all the stakeholders involved, including Physical Plant and Facilities Planning.

“The more research that they did, the much, much better the proposal became,” Wells said.

Physical Plant’s proposal to install energy-efficient lighting at the Central Utilities Plant was also approved. The project will cost $60,000 and has an estimated 25 percent return on investment, Wells said. It will save USF $1,500 annually.

One proposal that Wells described as “really fun” came from USF Dining, which asked for $6,000 to add solar umbrellas to the covered picnic table benches outside Champion’s Choice restaurant.

The umbrellas will include solar docking stations and USB ports that will allow students to charge electronics off of solar energy collected by the umbrellas, Wells said.

Physical Plant and USF Dining plan to complete their projects by the end of the semester or the beginning of the spring, he said.

The final project that was approved came from a College of Engineering faculty member, who Wells said could not be named until the projects are officially announced. The project will update the electric vehicle charging facility near the engineering building that was built at USF in 1995. The panels have since degraded, and the $50,000 project would bring the facility back into operation while saving the University $3,000 per year, Wells said.

Each of the four projects received 10 votes. Though there are 12 student council members, two students had to leave to attend class before voting, Wells said.

SGEF council member Joseph Michalsky, a sophomore majoring in computer science and civil engineering, said he was pleasantly surprised by the amount of time the council spent discussing the various proposals in the two-hour meeting.

“It took a lot of time to discuss the proposals to be able to come to a better-informed decision on the projects,” Michalsky said.

Wells said all 14 proposals were good enough to be funded by any number of agencies or could be approved by the SGEF council in the future.

“They (all the other proposals) were very, very good,” Wells said. “To get that sort of excitement and energy suggests that some of these projects, even though they were not funded in this round, will go on to completion. Just having this proposal process has really been a catalyst for lots of other projects.”

The council took into consideration factors such as return on investment and student involvement in the project. They also relied on feedback on the feasibility of the projects they received from the SGEF Technical Advisory Group.

Michalsky said going through the process for the first time prepared him for subsequent semesters.

“I would say by looking at these proposals and by seeing how each one was worded, I got much better insight as to how students in the future can work on (SGEF) proposals,” he said. “In the future, if anyone approaches me, I can give them some guidance if they want to submit a proposal.”

The students, faculty and staff members whose projects were approved were notified via email after the meeting was over. Once the winners confirm that they intend to go through with the projects, the SGEF council will make an official announcement.

The deadline for the submission of proposals for the spring semester is March 5.