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Energy in Bloom: The Class of 2015 Legacy

Problem: You’re studying outdoors on NC State’s Centennial Campus, and your laptop battery is nearly dead.
Solution: Plug into a tree to recharge.

Yes, a tree – but not just any tree.

Rendering of the solar flora sculpture the Class of 2015 plans to install on Centennial Campus.

Rendering of the solar tree the Class of 2015 plans to install on Centennial Campus.

The solar tree, at 16-feet tall and 11-feet wide, is a 1.5-kilowatt sculptural solar power system containing six solar panel “branches.” Independent of the electrical grid, teh solar tree’s battery bank will power area lighting and a four-outlet electronic charging station for users.

Designed by locally-based Spotlight Solar, the solar tree will reside in the courtyard adjacent to the Hunt Library on NC State’s Centennial Campus. Installation is scheduled to take place during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Driving this project is the Park Scholarships Class of 2015, whose members are committed to bringing to NC State “solar energy, solar education, and the benefits of a community mindset that is influenced by our societal need to explore alternative energy resources.”

Sustainability has long been a focus for this class of scholars. As freshmen participating in Learning Lab I, they chose to explore the impact community colleges and small businesses have on North Carolina in the areas of economic and environmental sustainability.

To establish this solar energy landmark, the class solicited support from NC State’s Sustainability Fund Advisory BoardCentennial Campus administration, NC State Student Government, and the University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments. As of late August 2014, the class completed nearly 30% of its $40,000 fundraising goal.

The Class of 2015 Legacy Committee (L to R): Kelsey McDowell, Nate Pedder, Tori Huffman (co-chair), Patrick Cheeves, Nick Kapur, and Xavier Primus (co-chair).

The Class of 2015 Legacy Committee (L to R): Kelsey McDowell, Nate Pedder, Tori Huffman (co-chair), Patrick Cheeves, Nick Kapur, and Xavier Primus (co-chair).

The vision of the Park Class of 2015 is that beyond generating power, the solar tree will serve as functional art and an outdoor social hub on Centennial Campus. Ultimately, the solar tree’s immediate surroundings will feature seating and a display screen tracking the system’s energy production and consumption.

“Oftentimes, solar energy suffers from being out of sight and out of mind on the roofs of buildings,” said Nathan Pedder, project manager for the Park Class of 2015 Legacy Committee. “The solar tree will get students thinking about alternative energy by bringing solar energy down to eye-level. It’s also a visual symbol of the university’s broader sustainability initiatives.”

To learn more about the solar tree initiative, visit the Park Class of 2015’s legacy website. Should you wish to contribute to the class’ efforts, you can make a tax-deductible donation to the project online.

posted 2014.09.01