MSU SHC Solar Panel Initiative

The MSU Student Housing Cooperative started the Green Energy Initiative with the dream of making all 15 student operated houses go carbon neutral. We have received a $50,000 grant from our electric utility, LBWL, which we have been using to replace major energy consumers such as lighting and refrigerators in our houses. Our Board of Directors has approved $15,000 to install a 4.2 kW system onto the David Bowie Memorial Cooperative! We're hoping that our community will help match our investment so we can take advantage of the economies of scale and make a much larger dent in our carbon dioxide output. Please donate and share so together we can make a larger impact on our community and our planet!


State News Article - Co-op Member Starts Green Energy Project To Make Homes More Efficient

HOMTV - Tapping Into Solar Energy 

The Undercurrent - Earth Day Podcast

MSU SHC - Mountain Rose Herbs Grant Application 

Lansing BWL approves borrowing $500 million for plant, despite environmentalist opposition

Our Story
In the early summer of 2016, I was working on a project with a friend in between my semester ending and an internship at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab later that summer. During this time, I became acquainted with audio books where I listened to Bill Nye's "Unstoppable," and "Undeniable." In Unstoppable, Nye describes an approach to take on the greatest feat mankind may ever see - to take on the challenge to combat and overcome climate change.

All that summer I contemplated new ways to make new and efficient batteries, or make an atmospheric carbon scrubber. Though nothing came to fruition, I had been aching to do something.

After my internship, I moved into my new home in East Lansing, David Bowie Memorial Cooperative, one of the 15 houses associated with the Michigan State University Student Housing Cooperative (MSU SHC). For those of you who don't know, living in a cooperative means that you become a part owner in a house. That means I'm 1/21st of an owner. However, this also means there are things called house jobs.

At our first meeting we went over the different options for house jobs, and then began to appoint the positions. Initially, the Board Representative positon was skipped over lack of interest. As I was contemplating what I wanted to do for the house, the thought crossed my mind that if I were to ever stand where my mouth is, I need to do something right here, and right now.

The MSU SHC requires each board representative to attend the "Board Retreat," where we are put into a 3 day crash course on how cooperatives work, the vision, and our new policy governance structure. After speaking to our executive director about the feasibility of installing solar panels on some of our properties, I was notified of a potential opening of a Sustainability Fellowship position. I called to a meeting to see who within the board would be interested in creating some sort of green energy initiative.

By late September I became the Sustainability Fellow for the MSU SHC. Immediately, I started the Sustainability Committee, as well as what came to be known as the "Green Energy Initiative."

Starting off, I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I attended an information session hosted by John Sarver, a solar activist located in Okemos, Michigan. There, I reached out to several of the community members and requested information of how to move forward.

I contacted a solar contractor later that week off of a recommendation from a friend. After communication with them for some time, it became clear that the first step is to gather the electricity usage of each house so we could assess our need.

After multiple failed calls out to Lansing Board of Water and Light, our public utility in East Lansing, I drove to their service center. There, I spoke with a representative and was given LBWL’s green energy analyst, John Krzystowczyk’s, number.

John was just the person I needed to talk to, and provided such a great amount of help (thank you so much). I learned that there are three basic steps to going carbon neutral:

1. Gather data
2. Reduce your consumption
3. Find means to go solar

After gaining permission from each of our houses, he assisted me in gathering the last three years data on our electricity usage. Additionally, he began the works of a new pilot program to help more residential members and organizations become more efficient.

Through this pilot program, I set up visits from LBWL and Consumers Energy for each of our houses so that we could further assess what is the largest drains on our electricity. After the assessments were complete, LBWL offered the SHC a $50,000 grant for energy efficient appliance upgrades.

During this time, the sustainability committee, with the help of Mike McCurdy, Jimmy Coyer, and Syd Baade, replaced all of the Incandescents and CFL light bulbs with more efficient LED lights. On top of this, we also were taught and then implemented the replacement of every linear fluorescent bulb with the more efficient linear LEDs. Additionally, we are looking into replacing a large majority of our outdated refrigerators with the grant provided. Though we are making great progress with our initiative in making our houses more efficient, we still have yet to work on making ourselves carbon neutral. On top of this, the grant we received is only to be used for energy efficiency measures.

I began to inquire about the possibilities of solar panels with John, where I was informed of two different options. 1) We could either invest in a community solar farm that LBWL is hosting or 2) join their Solar PV Net Metering program where we would have our houses fitted with solar panels. After researching the intricacies of both options, we decided to stick with the net metering program.

After running the numbers, we figured out that solar panels are slightly economically beneficial! Not only are we able to fit our global ends policies of making the world more sustainable for us all, but we also won’t be losing money on the deal.

Thus, after a lot of hard work, the executive director, president, and myself found and approved $15,000 from our reserves to be allocated towards a solar panel installation on David Bowie Memorial Cooperative in East Lansing, MI. Though we still plan on going to the Board of Directors meeting on June 12th to make the final proposal, we are well on our way to finishing our pilot. After comparing many contractors, and the pricing coming out to about $3 a watt. Using 300W panels, this will cover a 4.2kW system; roughly 20% of our houses consumption.

How You Can Help
This is where you come in. As we are a not for profit corporation whose aim is to provide affordable housing to a membership almost entirely composed of college students, we aren’t necessarily able to find the funds in order to make a larger investment. In order to have a single one of our houses use up its available space for solar panels, we would need a $30,000 investment to cover the panels, the licensing, the contractors, and associated costs.

Thus, I bring the question that once struck a chord with me onto you.

Are you going to watch as the very planet that brought all of the great things that have come in your life, and the planet that mothered your very existence itself, die as we enjoy our day to day lives, pushing the thought that our existence is having a sudden and drastic effect on our climate under the rug? Or are we going to use the intellect of the giants whose shoulders we stand on, the cunningness of the human spirit, and the sheer willpower of the masses to become the the next greatest generation who saw an insurmountable challenge and learned to tame and reshape the way we do things so as to eventually save the world?

With this, I’d like to ask you a couple more questions. Have you ever considered taking on the fight of climate change but didn’t know how? Are you interested in making a difference in your local community? Please reach out to me. Things like this you can do alone, but with the help of a friend, anything is possible. Connections are everything and I would be more than happy to help with anything I can to assist your aspirations.

Lastly, if you really are too busy to start something locally but would like to join the fight monetarily, please donate whatever you can to our cause. Every single donation helps the Michigan State University Student Housing Cooperative take one more step to go carbon neutral. Remember, we are purchasing solar panels at $3 a watt. With each $900 of extra investment funds, we are able to install an additional solar panel on our roof.

If nothing else, sharing our story with your friends, and pushing to make our world a better place through conversations can make a world of difference.

Thank you <3

In Solidarity,

Sam Berndt

Disclaimer: All funds raised will be donated to the MSU Student Housing Cooperative as it is listed as our beneficiary.

Donations ()

  • Marshall Clabeaux 
    • $27 
    • 3 mos
  • Zhuli S 
    • $30 
    • 17 mos
  • Andrew Baczewski 
    • $250 
    • 18 mos
  • Shuhei Hamaguchi 
    • $100 
    • 18 mos
  • Anthony Recca 
    • $50 
    • 18 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Sam Berndt 
East Lansing, MI
MSU Student Housing Cooperative 
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