Solar array to be installed on UB North Campus

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The Spectrum

UB is stepping up on its green efforts and will soon have a solar power source on campus. Renowned artist and landscape artist Walter Hood won a public art competition to develop a 1.1-megawatt solar array for the Flint Road entrance of North Campus.

Hood, the founding principal of Hood Design and professor and former chair of the Landscape Architecture Department at the University of California-Berkeley developed "The Solar Strand" concept, which the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will begin constructing in August.

The installation will include 5,000 photovoltaic panels that will reduce UB's carbon emission by 500 metric tons and meet the power requirements for 735 student apartments.

The project was made possible by a $7.5 million grant from NYPA to UB as part of a $21 million statewide renewable energy program.

University President John B. Simpson is looking forward to the solar power implementation, and emphasizes the importance of energy preservation on a college campus.

"Environmental sustainability is fundamental to a university," Simpson said. "It's part of our history, it's part of our heritage… and I think it's really something that's fundamental to UB 2020 and the future of our university. This is as an example to the communities we work in to better our institutions."

Hood's "Solar Strand" concept applies the idea of pairs of molecules entwining to form a DNA strand to the UB campus.

"One of the things I didn't want to do was create something in isolation. I wanted this to be emblematic of the larger environment," Hood said. "One of the things your campus doesn't have is things connected and what the array tries to do is bring all of these things together."

Hood explained that his proposal will create a new "patch ecology" that will reinforce existing freeway and roadway drainage patterns and intertwine with creeks and campus woodlands. He emphasized that the array will easily integrate natural beauty with solar technology.

Hood's vision also includes what he calls "social rooms" – student recreational spaces that break through the photovoltaic array at three locations.

Simpson, along with NYPA trustee Patrick Curley, introduced Hood at the Albright Knox Gallery following an exhibit called "UB Solar: The Art of Power" which features the designs proposed by the contest's two other finalists, Vito Acconci and Diana Balmori.

This project is a direct result of collaboration between the state of New York, NYPA and UB. No taxpayer money went into this development, according to Curley.

"The solar park personifies the Power Authority's commitment to UB," Curley said.

Curley is certain that Buffalo's typical wintry whether will not cause the solar arrays to malfunction; the panels were designed to withstand high wind and snowfall. In fact, he added, because Buffalo is the sunniest and driest city in the Northeastern U.S., it is an ideal solar energy location.

According to Robert Shibley, the senior advisor to the president and director of campus planning and design, the new solar energy source is necessary for UB today, not a future consideration.

"The point is not that we are ready to move forward, but it establishes a condition to meet today's needs," Shibley said.

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