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 firstname.lastname@example.org.