416. Weld Hill Solar Array

Weld Hill Solar Array and Pollinator Meadow

The Weld Hill Solar Project is an array of 1,297 solar panels installed in 2019. The array was installed to help cut energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and generates more than 25 percent of the energy required to support the Weld Hill Research Building’s research labs, greenhouses, and workspaces. The project keeps over 400 metric tons of carbon out of the atmosphere annually, employing a cutting-edge storage system to reduce demand on the local electrical grid. Underneath the panels is a meadow planted with native plants that will attract beneficial pollinators.  

Associate Project Manager Danny Schissler talks about the impact of the solar array in the audio segment below.

My name is Danny Schissler. I’m Associate Project Manager at the Arnold Arboretum.

I work as Associate Project Manager at the Arnold Arboretum, meaning that I spend my time planning and organizing infrastructure, landscape, and visitor engagement projects that typically involve many staff members from many different departments.

I think people today have fewer opportunities to experience the natural world, particularly those of us living in urban settings. The Arboretum is a place where every visitor can come into close contact with plants and wildlife, and really learn about the impacts of human behavior on Earth’s ecosystems. I’m proud to support projects that help the Arboretum fulfill its mission and provide learning experiences to any and all who are curious about plants and the environment.

The Weld Hill solar array is the Arboretum’s most ambitious sustainability project to date. Just like our plants, we’re focused on harnessing the sun’s rays to provide us with the energy it takes to keep our operations running. The Weld Hill solar array powers plant biology research here at the Weld Hill building. The array consists of nearly 1,300 panels in three different locations along with a unique battery storage system and will provide an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the building’s energy requirements, helping us break our reliance on fossil fuels. 

Another unique feature of the solar array is the pollinator meadow planted beneath the ground-mounted panels to the east of the building. The first of its kind in Massachusetts, the fully developed meadow will provide a home for dozens of native plant species collected from around the state, and grown from seed by the Arboretum’s horticulture team.

Beside supporting plant life, the Arboretum provides habitats to a variety of insects and wildlife. The pollinator meadow will help sustain bird, insect, and mammal populations that rely on the native herbaceous species planted beneath these panels, particularly those that depend on meadow ecosystems for food and nesting habitats.

One of the coolest parts of the array is the unique battery storage, which helps to provide stored energy during times of peak demand when the building’s energy requirements are particularly high. By reducing our reliance on the grid during these times, we can help avoid the use of fossil fuel powered plants that typically come online when the demand for energy is most severe.

At the Arboretum, we’re responsible for stewarding a 150-year-old collection consisting of over 16,000 plants, and all the wildlife that they support. Understanding what the future holds for our plants, particularly with respect to our changing climate, is crucial for protecting each and every one of these organisms. Breaking our reliance on fossil fuels is a key step toward reducing our impact on the natural world, and botanical gardens must lead the way in this respect.

Tap here to read a transcript.