Harvard University Looks to Solar Energy

14 August of 2009 by

In 2001, Harvard University bought the Watertown office complex, a750,000-square-foot property, for $162,641,000. Formerly known as theArsenal on the Charles, the site was built in 1816 to produce weaponsand ammunition for Navy ships, used during both World Wars for similarpurposes, and even had its own nuclear reactor. Then, in 1994, it wasclosed.

In 2001, the former brownfield site was rescued underSuperfund status, purchased by Harvard, and acquired its first tenant,Harvard Business School Publishing Corp., a division of the universitywhich occupies 18 percent of the complex. The other 80 percent isoccupied by commercial users who rent or lease the Harvard property.

 Harvard University Looks to Solar Energy

Now,Harvard University plans to install a 500-kilowatt solar array on therooftop of the largest building in the complex. The roof, at 395Arsenal Street, is about as long as 2.5 football fields – the sort ofamazing space one solar installer described as, “A roof to drool over”.

Engineerssiting the project estimate there’s room for more than 1,000 panels,which could produce more than 600,000 kilowatt hours per year. Thefinal tally, 635, 272 kilowatt hours, will reduce the building’s annualelectricity consumption by 7 percent, and prevent 238 metric tons ofcarbon dioxide emissions per year, or emissions equivalent to theelectricity use of 33 households.

Because of the shape of theroof, and the building’s age, the array will not be visible from streetlevel, and the installation will not require roof penetration. Thefunding for the project, whose exact cost is unspecified, comes partlyfrom a $1.08 million grant from Massachusetts’ Commonwealth Solarrebate program, stated in 2008.

Harvard’s stated goal, laid outlast year as part of the university’s sustainability initiative, aimsto cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from 2006 levels withinthe next seven years.

Other tenants of the building (PaneraBread, Verisign, Pharmetrics and Bright Horizons) will also benefit,albeit indirectly, from the installation. According to Harvard RealEstate Services Associate Vice President Jim Gray, the solarinstallation is one step in a greater battle (toward renewable energy)that is going to be won, “with a thousand little contributions, not oneor two huge things.”

So far, in 2009, that seems to be holdingtrue, with individuals and small businesses adopting solar solutions inspite of the doom-and-gloom predictions by financial analysts for aremarkably bad solar industry year.

Harvard is also planningthe installation of wind turbines on the Soldiers Field Park Garage,and, in Cambridge, solar thermal collectors deliver heat for tworesidential properties.

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