As a leading institution for deepening understanding and appreciation of plants, horticulture, and biodiversity, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University has been a longtime proponent of environmental sustainability. In addition to cutting edge research on climate change and its impact on plant life and ecosystems conducted at the Arboretum’s Weld Hill Research Building, the Arboretum strives to promote the values of conservation and protecting our environment and natural resources.
This fall, with support from the Harvard Office for Sustainability’s Green Revolving Fund, the Arboretum installed 108 solar panels on the roof of the Hunnewell Building maintenance garage. The Fund provides capital for projects that support the University’s aggressive, science-based climate goal, and have a payback period of less than five to ten years. The high-efficiency panels deployed at the Arboretum have a lifespan of 25 years and will generate clean energy directly from the sun, reducing the Arboretum’s dependence on fossil fuels and helping to combat greenhouse gas emissions. The system is expected to produce approximately 14% of the Hunnewell Building’s annual energy needs. Plans to install additional panels on the roof of the Dana Greenhouses at the Arboretum will produce enough power to support approximately one-third of the Greenhouse’s energy needs. This follows a suite of recently-completed renovations at the Greenhouses aimed at increasing the energy efficiency of this 50-year-old facility, including the installation of LED lighting and new windows throughout the headhouse.
Harvard University President Drew Faust spoke recently at a State Department forum on the key role that universities must play in finding and implementing solutions to climate change. Across the University and the extended Harvard community, the idea of environmental sustainability is now a core value, with courses, departments, and faculty dedicated to developing sustainability ideas, practices, and dialogue. At this critical time for environmental awareness and action, the Arboretum’s investments in green energy at both the Hunnewell Building and the Dana Greenhouses promise long-term savings of both money and fossil fuels.