A grant from The Green Initiative Fund, or TGIF, will enable Sigma Chi fraternity to begin installing a solar panel system for its chapter house Wednesday, making it the first fraternity at UC Berkeley to harness electricity through solar energy. The installation is scheduled to be completed Friday.
Daniel Caveney, a member of Sigma Chi and the fraternity’s then-sustainability chair, led the project to install solar panels and submitted a grant application to TGIF in April 2015. TGIF approved this project in May 2015, awarding Sigma Chi a $10,000 grant along with a $5,000 loan.
In addition to the money awarded by TGIF, the chapter contributed a further $5,000 to the project and plans to repay the loan in the next few years using the savings from the solar panels.
TGIF — UC Berkeley’s green fund supported by a $6 per semester student fee — helps finance campus sustainability projects. The TGIF committee, managed by TGIF and Sustainability Initiatives coordinator Sharon Daraphonhdeth, chooses which projects receive money and tracks the progress of projects funded by TGIF.
“(TGIF) prioritizes selecting projects that are student led, have the largest benefit for the least cost, and address an aspect of environmental and social sustainability that is underdeveloped at UC Berkeley,” Daraphonhdeth said in an email.
According to Caveney, the impetus for the solar panel project was to provide sustainable housing for the fraternity members, reduce the chapter’s carbon footprint and set an example for the rest of the community.
“One of the goals of this project was to set a precedent of sustainable student housing, not only within the Greek community at Cal, but also within the greater Berkeley campus community,” Caveney said.
Connor Gullstad — Sigma Chi’s then-president who worked on the grant application along with Caveney — said the solar panels would help dispel the notion that the Greek community is not concerned about sustainability or the rest of the campus.
“There is a false perception that Greek organizations don’t care about others,” Gullstad said. “That is fundamentally not true.”
Kielan Rathjen, a former committee member at TGIF, said Sigma Chi’s project is an example of a “tangible sustainability impact” and will be instrumental in educating other students about sustainability.
According to campus Real Estate Division spokesperson Christine Shaff, UC Berkeley recently oversaw five solar panel installations, and the campus’s solar systems are now generating roughly one megawatt of power.
Daniel Kammen, a campus professor of energy, said solar power is critical to ensure sustainability. Kammen commended the student-run nature of Sigma Chi’s project.
“This is the kind of use of student funds that will make a longterm difference to our footprint,” Kammen said.