The following excerpt is from an article by David J. Hill at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. The entire article is published on the University at Buffalo's website.
The Solar Strand
Blending art with science, UB's solar array highlights the potential for renewable energy
Follow one of the footpaths embedded within UB’s new Solar Strand. As you walk along, you pass row after row of configurations of solar panels, their support posts rising up seamlessly from the earth like tree trunks.
Stand just below the front of one of the three tallest arrays and trace its path upward. The effect is that of an infinity pool, the panels extending endlessly into the sky.
“It’s our goal to have K through 12 classes come into the Solar Strand to learn not just about solar energy, but about sustainability and what it means.”
—Ryan McPherson, UB’s chief sustainability officer
The view evokes a sense of wonder, and it's just one of many unique ways of seeing the UB Solar Strand, a collection of 3,200 photovoltaic panels designed by world-renowned landscape architect Walter Hood.
The Solar Strand measures 140 feet across and is approximately a quarter-mile long. It was funded by the New York Power Authority, which partnered with UB on the array's construction.
Hood’s artistic vision was to create a place where both the UB community and the public can interact with the wonders of science and technology.
As a result, there is a significant educational component to the Solar Strand. Each of the three largest configurations creates an outdoor classroom space behind it where students can study and learn, or simply reflect.
Soon, UB will reach out to the local education community to develop a program where students ranging from kindergarteners to high-schoolers can tour the Solar Strand and learn about renewable energy. “It’s our goal to have K through 12 classes come into the Solar Strand to learn not just about solar energy, but about sustainability and what it means,” says Ryan McPherson, UB’s chief sustainability officer.
The education component is critical and, combined with the Solar Strand's unrestricted design—it is one of the most publicly accessible solar panel installations in the world—will help break down the barriers that have existed with other solar projects.
Until the UB Solar Strand, most solar panel installations around the area were either cordoned off by fencing or barbed wire, or affixed to the roof of a building—essentially untouchable and out of sight.