The living landscape of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University thrives — for nearly 150 years the extensive collection of woody plants has been harnessing the energy of the sun, pulling in its rays to flourish.
A new solar project now underway at the historic institution is taking that a step further by using the sun to power its scientific research facilities dedicated to understanding plant life, both at the Arboretum and around the world.
The groundbreaking project complements Harvard’s Climate Action Plan and the city of Boston’s Carbon Free Boston initiative to become fossil-fuel free by 2050. When completed in the fall, the Weld Hill Solar Project will provide up to 30 percent of the energy used by the Weld Hill Research and Education Building in Roslindale. On about 1.2 acres adjacent to the facility, the solar project marks the most ambitious sustainability initiative to date for the Arboretum, and for the University.
William “Ned” Friedman, the Arboretum’s director and Harvard University Arnold Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, said he wants to look out his office window at the panels every day and be reminded of the continuing and collective human obligations to the planet.
“The planet’s biodiversity has been harnessing the sun’s energy forever. It is time for humans to put solar energy generation and storage technology to work to do more. It’s a moral mandate,” he said. “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.”
The Weld Hill Research and Education Building is a 45,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art science laboratory and teaching facility that opened in 2011. On any given day researchers, faculty, and students from Harvard and elsewhere use its laboratories, greenhouses, growth chambers, and classrooms to further the study of plant life and its connection to all life on Earth.