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Education: Solar Trees Provide Shade, Power at UCSD

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2009
Anne L. Fischer,

Students on campuses across the globe are studying climate change and taking action to reduce their own carbon footprints. In 2006, according to the National Wildlife Federation report “Higher Education in a Warming World,” more than 200 US colleges and universities were either purchasing renewable energy or producing their own.

The University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla, has taken a novel approach by “planting” Solar Trees on the roofs of two parking garages. The “trees,” by Kyocera Solar of Scottsdale, Ariz., are photovoltaic panels arranged in a treelike formation that provide shade for cars while generating electricity to help power the campus and provide power to outlets that can someday charge electric vehicles.

At the heart of the La Jolla campus of the University of California, San Diego, Solar Trees on top of the Gilman parking garage soak up the sun. The solar structures are part of the university’s green energy program, which includes solar photovoltaic, biogas fuel cell and wind energy procurement. Photograph by Alan Decker. Courtesy of University of California, San Diego.

The project comprises a total of 43 Solar Trees, with 15 on one parking garage roof and 28 on another. Full trees have 77 photovoltaic panels, and half trees hold 49. The panels are made up of polycrystalline 205-W modules and provide up to 15.79 kW (full trees) or 10.05 kW (half trees).

Each Solar Tree will generate more than 17,000 hours of clean energy per year, reducing carbon emissions by 13.2 metric tons. The project was designed by Envision Solar of La Jolla, Calif., as part of the college’s Environment and Sustainability Initiative, which has a goal of providing up to 10 MW of local renewable power by 2014.

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