Release the power of the sun

Mailyn Abreu

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Brett Waldman may be the first person ever to say he’s “going to graduate school through the power of the sun.”

Waldman, a recipient for the Sun Fund Scholarship, was awarded a tuition waiver for the 2011-12 academic year and $6,000.

Sponsored by FAU’s School of Urban and Regional Planning in the College for Design and Social Inquiry, he is said to be “funded by the sun” thanks to the energy savings the solar panels installed at Fort Lauderdale’s Higher Education Complex building brought FAU.

The solar panels have saved the school 7.5% of the building’s former operating cost in the past 2 years.

“In these first few years alone the Solar Roof Initiative has provided enough savings to pay for my tuition. It is very exciting to tell people that I am going to graduate school through the power of the sun,” said Waldman. “I just may be the first person to be able to say such a thing.”

As a recipient of the scholarship, Waldman has to work as a research assistant and calculate the savings attributed to the solar panels. He’s had exposure to solar panels and energy conservation since 1990, when his parents decided to install solar panels in their home.

“Even at a young age this decision was a defining moment for me,” said Waldman, a first year student in FAU’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning program.

He strongly believes that this scholarship will make a huge difference in the lives of students and the environment.

“In addition to the scholarship this project has already made a significant energy impact for FAU. My current research is based on determining just how substantial this impact actually is and how to improve the use of solar technologies for future projects.”

He’s also hoping to use the scholarship to give back to FAU someday.

“As an Urban and Regional Planning graduate student, I hope that I can come back to the University as a practicing professional planner and offer insight and guidance to future FAU students,” he said.

According to the Director and Associate Professor, Jacobus Johannes Vos of the school of Urban and Regional Planning, FAU may be the only school in the country that has used energy savings to provide a student with a scholarship.

“I am not familiar with any other universities that have built a solar array and are now using some of the savings to provide a scholarship to a student. One scholarship is not going to make an impact by itself, but it makes a contribution and if we would all contribute to the same extent we would make a huge impact.”

The deadline to apply for the “Sun Fund Fellowship” for Fall 2012 is March 16, 2012. The application can be found at www.fau.edu/surp. To learn more about the roof initiative, visit www.fau.edu/surp/solarroof.