A solar array and pergola in the college garden at Central College is finished, creating a new classroom space, as well as research and sustainability education opportunities for students.
The solar array and pergola were funded through the senior class gift of the Class of 2019, as well as a grant to the college. The college garden is located near the Garden Cottage kitchen classroom on Central’s campus.
According to Brian Campbell, director of sustainability education and partnerships at Central, the solar array is sized to be what an average family home in the United States would consume in electricity. It gives students the opportunity to learn, study and research renewable energy in a real-world setting.
Central’s engineering students participated in the design process, comparing different construction materials and analyzing wind and snow loads.
“Part of our underlying commitment in all that we do is making sure there are educational opportunities built into something like this from the beginning,” Campbell says. “It was an opportunity for student learning. They helped imagine this and were involved way back thinking about what this project could be.
“It’s exciting to see a group of graduating seniors leave something like this. It’s an opportunity for a new group. Who knows what they’ll do with it over time and what that will inspire?”
The pergola-style canopy creates a large, shaded space with picnic tables and a grassy gathering space. The solar array is more visible than Central’s existing rooftop panels. With access to data from the solar array, students can explore new areas of research, helping test the feasibility of a larger array.
Each year, the graduating class at Central selects a way to leave its mark on campus. Classes raise money for a project or scholarships for future generations, with the help of the college’s advancement office. The graduating seniors pair with the 40-year reunion class to fundraise together.