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SED Harnesses Solar Power

Roof panels installed for green initiative


The roof of the School of Education is now a great place to catch some rays. Seven solar panels have been installed on top of the Sherborn Street building, part of a student, faculty, and staff initiative to promote green energy.

The panels are the latest addition to an increasingly green SED building, which already boasts a bicycle-powered laptop and will soon have a wind turbine.

Doug Zook, an SED associate professor of curriculum and teaching, who focuses on science education and global ecology, says the energy contribution from the new panels may be modest, but they will serve an important educational purpose over time.

“People will be able to see a contribution from the sun, even on cloudy days,” Zook says. “Our data will show what seven panels can do — which may be pretty small — but you could easily imagine what could be done if there were more.”

Unlike the bicycle, which is human-powered and connects to a battery that stores energy or uses it to run a laptop, the new solar panels absorb energy directly from the sun, convert it to electricity, and send it into the grid powering the building. That makes it harder to tell exactly how much of the overall energy is being produced by the panels, but there are plans to install a meter that will measure the number of kilowatt-hours they are providing.

Zook believes that as technology improves, it will become more feasible for individuals to install solar panels to power their homes, at least partially. “It is a promising idea that has a long way to go,” he says. “Part of the problem is that panels aren’t capturing all of the sun’s energy, only some it. As they get better and more concentrated, it will make more sense for ordinary people to install them.”

Solar panels are only part of the solution to the nation’s energy problems. SED recently received the results of an energy audit, reporting a staggering 62 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the school’s two buildings over the nine-month academic year. That, according to the audit, is the equivalent of flying around the world in a jet 10 times.

Zook says SED has since responded with a “powering down” program. “There is no stronger way to fight global warming — and to save money — than conservation,” he says. “Updating heating systems, shutting off lights, turning off your computer when you leave for the day — it is unbelievable how much energy is wasted by not doing these simple things.”

Edward A. Brown can be reached at ebrown@bu.edu.


5 Comments on SED Harnesses Solar Power

  • Kevin Hallock on 04.07.2008 at 5:25 am


    Congratulations to the School of Education for their continuing efforts to implement green energy strategies. Installing a meter is a great idea as well since it will provide valuable information concerning how much energy the panels generate.

  • Anonymous on 04.07.2008 at 9:54 am

    What an awesome graphic! I really learned a lot from it! Keep up the great work!

  • MJ on 04.07.2008 at 10:26 am


    I’m glad at least one school in the BU community is taking advantage of the ridiculous amount of sunshine New England gets. Now all we need to do is get CAS to start using solar panels, and I’m sure BU can start lowering their electricity/heating bills!

  • Anonymous on 04.07.2008 at 10:41 am

    Finally- a move in the right direction!

    Thank you to the school of education for moving BU ahead and setting the standard– now if only CAS would follow. I wish all of BU would go green and catch up with other schools across the nation. We still have a very low grade on the collegiate environmental report card, but it is great to see the SED trying to change that!!!!

  • Ron L on 04.07.2008 at 1:23 pm

    Solar power

    What you really need is a discrete wiring system carrying DC to power laptops and desktops. Eliminate the waste of going DC to AC and back to DC. Somewhere the Old Man* is smilling.

    Ron L

    *Tom Edison, who always felt that DC was best.

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