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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Show Me The Sunny

Construction on UB's solar array is well underway

The largest solar array to ever lay ground in New York State is under construction in UB's backyard.

Located on the fringes of North Campus and Flint Road, this 3,200 panel UV-hungry solar contraption will stretch over 175,000 area feet of space. Construction began in June and is anticipated to be ready for use by the end of the year.

Modeled after the structure of a DNA strand, the ‘Solar Strand' is expected to harvest 750 kilowatts of energy to help power a sufficient chunk of on-campus apartments. Such successes will push the university closer to its desire of being carbon neutral by 2030.

The solar array was imagined by the visions of award-winning landscape architect, Walter Hood. Hood was the selected finalist for an international competition UB hosted to find the best landscapist to turn the university's ideas into reality. He was one of nine artists from the U.S. and U.K. that submitted their works to UB and landed his way into the top three.

Hood's work is recognized for its humanistic style and strong value of relationship between people and their environment. This element of unity was exactly what UB was hoping to achieve.

"It's open to the public and that's what makes it unique," said Robert G. Shibley, chair of UB's Environmental Stewardship Committee and dean of UB's School of Architecture and Planning. "It's very rare to find a solar installation particularly at this scale. There are over 3000 panels and at this scale of construction to make it open to the public is a unique adventure." While solar panels have a stigma for being unflattering or boring to look at, Hood's reputation for transforming dull spaces into works of art made him an ideal candidate. The university was thrilled to have such an innovative artist on board for this exciting project.

Hood's community-conscious architectural style will integrate the Solar Strand into the lives of the university as both a source for alternative energy and a center for learning. The installation will provide the public with designated areas for learning with direct experiences with the wonders of the environment.

"The outdoor classroom is literally under the shade of some of the larger panel arrays with plazas that one can bring school busses of elementary school children or environmental [education] classes or even biology classroom work devoted to some of the ecology on site related to the drainage areas that we've established on agrarian or natural landscape areas," Shibley said.

The marriage of both science and fine arts is a key element to the design of the solar installation. Through this blending of the arts and science, UB shows its appreciation for all of the studies.

"We think it matters what the campus looks like and the kind of image we project about our role and interest both in science and technology and efficiency and ecology and also in the humanities, the fine arts and the production of culture that every university is also about," Shibley said. "And in one gesture, this art installation that generates power sends a message [of] what the university is about."




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