Jan. 18, 2021

Award-winning student club promotes clean, affordable energy

Deadline is Feb. 3 midnight to submit nominations for this year's Sustainability Awards
ELSE solar panels
The ELSE team installs solar panels on the roof of the UCalgary Campus Community Garden shed. Karthi Karunakaran

“Everyone should have access to clean and affordable energy.” These are the words of UCalgary civil engineering student Karthi Karunakaran. Graduating in April 2020, Karunakaran aspires to work in and help shape Alberta’s renewable energy sector.

  • Pictured above: The ELSE team installs solar panels on the roof of the UCalgary Campus Community Garden shed. Photo by Karthi Karunakaran

“Alberta has tremendous potential, not only in terms of talented people and natural resources, but also in terms of its ability to harness solar power,” says Karunakaran. “It would be great to diversify and incorporate all forms of energy.”

To help him reach his post-graduation goals and enhance his student experience, Karunakaran founded the UCalgary chapter of Emerging Leaders for Solar Energy (ELSE). With the support of ELSE Canada, he started this student club in January 2016 to educate the campus community on the benefits of solar energy in Alberta and Canada.

As co-president, he works with more than 50 student members to organize fun and interactive events open to all disciplines. Their signature project involved installing an off-grid solar photovoltaic system in the Campus Community Garden. This system provides clean, carbon-free energy to UCalgary garden users while increasing energy literacy and engaging the campus in the dialogue needed to address United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #7: Affordable and Clean Energy.

Through this project, their dedication to campus sustainability earned them a 2019 UCalgary Sustainability Award.

We were ecstatic to win a UCalgary Sustainability Award,” says Karunakaran. “ELSE wanted to enact positive change and contribute to campus sustainability. This led us to undertake the Community Garden Solar Project, in conjunction with the Community Garden Club and the Office of Sustainability.

"By installing this small off-grid system, the locally generated electricity powers the lights in the garden shed, plays music and charges small electronic devices for gardeners and local community members who use the garden.”

ELSE also received $250 with the award to further support the club’s initiatives.

Karunakaran encourages students, faculty and staff participating in or leading sustainability-related initiatives and research on campus to submit a nomination for the Sustainability Awards.

“The UCalgary Sustainability Awards are a great way to recognize sustainability research and initiatives undertaken by the UCalgary campus community,” he says. “They showcase some of the best and brightest ideas on campus that students, faculty and staff are implementing to reduce our overall institutional carbon footprint. Those passionately working toward this goal should definitely apply.”

Do you know someone doing outstanding sustainability work at UCalgary? Take a few minutes to nominate them now for one of eight UCalgary Sustainability Awards. Nominations are open until midnight on Feb. 3. Self-nominations are encouraged.

The University of Calgary’s Institutional Sustainability Strategy provides a road map for continuous improvement in our pursuit of excellence and leadership in sustainability. We aim to become a Canadian post-secondary education leader in sustainability in our academic and engagement programs, administrative and operational practices and through supporting community and industry in their aims for leadership in sustainability. Learn more about UCalgary’s leadership in sustainability.