Harvard College senior Justin Lanning had been running the stairs in Harvard Stadium since January, but it was early this spring when he noticed something different as he reached the top of the steps and took a quick rest before heading back down. Across a parking lot, on the roof of the Gordon Indoor Track and Tennis building, workers were beginning to install rooftop solar panels as part of what has become Harvard’s largest solar energy project.
“I thought to myself, what a great idea,” said Lanning, who watched the project unfold “like a flip book” on a weekly basis as he trained for competitive races and triathlons.
Interested parties can view real-time statistics of energy savings with a variety of comparisons. As an example, in just one week of use, the project has already replaced the use of 70 standard 60 watt bulbs for one year at eight hours of day; its total CO2 offset is equal to that of 220 adult trees and 993 gallons of gasoline.
The renewable energy project was installed as part of Harvard’s commitment to sustainability and its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2016 (from a 2006 baseline). During the course of six weeks, a local construction crew installed 2,275 solar photovoltaic panels on 1.5 acres of roof space. The entire project is expected to create 591.5 kilowatts of electricity from the sun’s energy — enough electricity to power approximately 100 traditional residential houses for a year. (The average home could be powered by a 6-kilowatt solar array, explained Joe Harrison, â€¨senior project developer for Borrego Solar Systems, the company that installed the panels.) This would save nearly 480 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The solar panels will deliver the electricity directly to Harvard’s electrical grid via an inverter that converts direct current (DC) from the panels into alternating current (AC). The resultant electricity can be used to provide energy to homes, buildings, and even the lighting for Harvard’s athletic fields.
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