Harvard undertakes solar sustainability project inspired by campus Arboretum

Harvard University is taking cues from it’s own Arboretum full of plants to undertake another innovative sustainable solar energy project on the campus that will help fight climate change.

The current goal for the city of Boston is to switch from fossil fuels to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Taking another step toward that goal, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University is installing a 1.2 acre solar panel project that will provide 30 percent of the energy needs required by the Weld Hill Research and Education Building, which is dedicated to plant research.

Harvard University Arnold Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and the Arboretum’s director William Friedman hailed the project as a necessary move to help save the planet in the face of worsening climate change.

“The planet’s biodiversity has been harnessing the sun’s energy forever,” he said. “It is time for humans to put solar energy generation and storage technology to work to do more. It’s a moral mandate. At the Arboretum we are taking responsibility for our carbon footprint and our obligations to the planet. It is wonderful to be able to show the Boston community that climate change solutions can begin right here, in our own backyards.”

In addition to providing clean energy, the solar panel plot will also serve as an ecosystem.

According to the Harvard Gazette:

The design of the solar array takes extra steps to ensure the health of the natural habitat around it: The pollinator meadow beneath the panels in the east array will be the first of its kind in Massachusetts. The urban-managed ecosystem of locally collected grasses and flowers will provide habitat for a variety of native pollinators and insect and bird biodiversity.

That’s a seriously good idea at a time when bees could really use a boost.

The project also uses a sustainable “smart system” that is the most innovative available today, allowing buildings to store energy that can be used at select times when electricity is most in demand.

Someday in the near future, the entire university will run on clean energy, and this project is just the beginning.

“We as a University are continually reviewing practices to lower our carbon footprint and become a progressively sustainable institution,” Harvard executive vice president Katie Lapp said. “The Arnold Arboretum is helping carry out that mission, not only through the advancement of scientific research through its living collections, but also as an important leader in sustainability efforts at Harvard.”

Just like the plants it houses and studies, the Arboretum is now using the sun as an energy source, and the rest of the nation should follow its lead.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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