Harvard Installs Largest Solar Array on Campus

BOSTON — Harvard continues to solidify its place among energy efficient universities. The school recently unveiled its largest on-campus solar array, which should prevent nearly 480 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the Earth’s atmosphere, according to Joe Harrison, senior project developer for Borrego Solar Systems, the company that installed the panels.

The project took just six weeks to complete. Construction workers installed 2,275 solar photovoltaic panels on 1.5 acres of roof space on Harvard’s Gordon Indoor Track and Tennis Building.

“Harvard hired a consultant to look at all of their buildings and properties, and the athletic building was chosen primarily based on its size. They had structural engineering done to determine that the building had the capacity for the panels as well,” Harrison said.

Although roofs often have many obstructions — including HVAC units and vent pumps —all the equipment for the athletic facility is housed underneath the roof, making it the perfect location for the solar panel installation, explained Harrison.

“This one [solar installation on the athletic facility] is by far five times as big as any other energy-efficient installation anywhere else on campus,” Harrison said.

The 600-kilowatt solar installation is also one of the largest solar roof installations in the city of Boston.
Harvard University acts as its own utility company and is subject to the same regulations as other utility companies in Massachusetts, including the requirement that 1 percent of its energy has to come from solar, said Harrison.

“With this project they [Harvard] are able to create renewable energy credits and then they can either sell those on the open market or they can have an interdepartmental exchange and sell them to Harvard utilities so Harvard can meet their Solar Renewable Energy Credit obligation,” Harrison said.

The electricity that’s produced will offset what is used at the track facility, saving the school money on electricity costs.

“In working with Harvard, they had very specific design standards from the beginning, probably the most robust and specific design standards that I have ever seen,” says Harrison. “But the result of that was a very smooth construction process.”

Harrison said that Harvard was completely satisfied with the installation and John Listor, assistant director of athletics, told Borrego Solar Systems that it was the smoothest construction project that they’ve been a part of in the past 12 years.

“Even though there were a lot of standards we had to meet, I think it led to an excellent project overall,” Harrison said.

Although this is the largest solar project at Harvard to date, the university continues to expand its efforts, with talks of new installations in the future.

“They are looking for this installation to create some revenue and receive feedback for a couple of months and then they’ll be ready to look at other buildings and do additional projects,” Harrison said. “They’re definitely interested in more.”