Wind Turbines To Be Installed on Holyoke Center

Solar panels will be installed on two other campus buildings

Harvard is planning to install small-scale wind turbines on top of the Holyoke Center and the Soldiers Field Parking Garage and solar panels on two University-owned buildings according to James Gray, associate vice president for the Harvard real estate services.

The University will begin installing the solar panels next week on the rooftops of two buildings—one on Prescott Street and another on Broadway. Gray said he hopes that the panels will produce enough energy to provide all the hot water for the buildings.

The wind turbines, five small ones on the Holyoke Center and two larger ones on the parking garage, will be installed sometime this year. The primary purpose of the turbines will be for research into the efficacy of roof-top turbines rather than as a significant source of electricity, according to Gray.

The turbines will also be valuable due to their visibility and the statement they make, Gray said.

“[The turbines will be] an outward statement about looking and examining renewables on campus and lowering our carbon footprint,” Gray said, “like walking by a beautiful bouquet of flowers.”

Small-scale wind turbines, which are installed on approximately 3,000 American homes, are generally not economically feasible, according to a recent report by the American Wind and Energy Association. Electricity generated by such turbines can cost as much as $1.50 per kilowatt hour, compared to between 10 and 50 cents for normal wind power.

In addition, small-scale turbines installed in cities have lower productivity due to interference and intermittent wind, according to a recent report released by the Carbon Trust, a British-funded group that helps companies reduce their carbon emissions.

Still, the move to install wind turbines on buildings in Harvard Square drew praise from some at Harvard, who said that the turbines can be used to send a message about the importance of renewable energy.

“Putting [the turbines] in a very public place will help people get used to them, to realize that they are cool and we want them here,” said Daniel P. Schrag, a professor of earth and planetary sciences and the director for the Center for the Environment.

The prospective wind turbine installations are part of a larger campus focus on sustainability and carbon emissions. In an announcement made earlier this summer, University President Drew G. Faust committed Harvard to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent below 2006 levels by 2016.

“The president has established a very aggressive goal for the University to reduce greenhouse gases,” Gray said, “and renewables may have a significant role.”

While small-scale wind turbines are the first step, much work remains if Harvard is to actually use renewable energy to cover a significant share of its energy needs, according to Schrag.

“It is important to realize that [the turbines] are symbolic, and are not an alternative to doing something more substantive,” Schrag said. “We need to think about how Harvard can change how electricity is generated in the region.”

—Staff writer Natasha S. Whitney can be reached