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Fall 2010

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Solar Power as Public Art A photovoltaic (PV) array consisting of 5,000 panels is the centerpiece of the hybrid landscape.

Solar power as art

Story by Arthur Page

Walter Hood, artist and landscape designer. Photo by: Reanna Kaopuiki, BFA ’01

COME NEXT SPRING, UB’s North Campus will be the site of the largest solar array installation on a college or university campus in New York State and one of the largest on a college or university campus in the United States.

Located east of Flint Road between Maple Road and Audubon Parkway, it will contain 5,000 photovoltaic panels that will generate solar energy for 735 student apartments and reduce UB’s carbon emissions by more than 500 metric tons per year.

It also will advance a principal goal of the UB 2020 strategic plan: improving the environmental sustainability of the university’s three campuses.

The installation is being built by UB in partnership with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and funded with up to $7.5 million from the NYPA.

The proposed design is derived from “the strand,” a linear landscape formation and DNA fingerprint. Together, water and light merge, harnessing nature’s energy from sunlight and hydrological infiltration.

Work on the site will begin this fall.

The university, envisioning the solar array as a significant land art installation, conducted an invit–
ational international design competition to ensure that it would integrate beauty with engineering innovation and environmental sustainability.

Artist and landscape architect Walter Hood, winner of the competition, is founding principal of Hood Design of Oakland, Calif., and professor and former chair of the Landscape Architecture Department at the University of California at Berkeley. He calls his winning design “The Solar Strand,” a term that refers both to a linear landscape formation and to the way pairs of molecules entwine to form DNA.

Indeed, Hood’s design physically resembles the linear pattern of a DNA fingerprint, and will incorporate plantings in and among the solar panels to reinforce and merge with the existing creek and campus wood patch ecology. He envisions educational and social uses for the solar panel system, primarily through the development of “social rooms” that would “break through” the array at three locations.

Like a DNA fingerprint, solar panels are codified, arranged to show how much power is captured or generated and where it is used.

MULTIMEDIA

Solar Video

Solar Power video

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Solar Video

Artist Offers Vision

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