Workers will begin mowing, clearing and grading land adjacent to Flint Road next month to make way for “The Solar Strand,” a 1.1 megawatt solar-energy array designed by internationally renowned landscape architect Walter Hood and funded by a $7.5 million grant from the New York Power Authority.
The installation, with 5,000 photovoltaic (PV) panels powering more than 700 student apartments at UB, is calculated to reduce carbon emissions by more than 500 metric tons per year. That will bring the university closer to its goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2030 under its Climate Action Plan. But the project is more than a means of generating energy.
The array will be a work of public art, creating a visually stunning gateway to the North Campus with panels stretching in three polished rows from north to south between Audubon Parkway and Maple Road east of Flint. Hood’s concept will embed public spaces within the landscape with trails and walkways connecting the installation with wetland gardens featuring ground covers, stands of trees and shrubs that attract birds and other wildlife.
Two of the tallest panels in Hood’s design will act as roofs shading public gathering spaces in the style of the giant solar pergola on Barcelona’s Forum Esplanade. These tilted panels will rise at a 30-degree angle, with one end 4 feet off the ground and the other stretching to a height of 25 feet. Underneath, guests will have the opportunity to study the panels’ circuitry in “social rooms” furnished with seating and lighting. University officials expect visitors, including students and local residents, to use the space for classes, tours and casual activities.
The Solar Strand owes its name to its panels’ linear formation, which resembles the pattern of a DNA fingerprint. The quarter-mile-long strip of land that workers will clear and grade will be narrow—less than 140 feet wide.