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Sunny Days Ahead for SolarSpace

Over the past year I’ve been working with the NC State Stewards on a project titled SolarSpace. It all started when SolarPack, NC State’s Solar Vehicle team, donated 11 used solar panels for us to reuse. After much brainstorming, we decided to best use it by implementing it on campus in order to serve students while also educating them on clean energy. We started working with numerous departments, faculty members, and staff to make sure our project was a successful one.

One of the project’s challenges was selecting a viable space on campus to install the project. It took a lot of discussion and after some ruminating, we were able to come to an agreement as Gardner Arboretum being our top location for the trellis-to-be. SolarSpace was then born, and our idea began to formulate more as we met with more and more faculty members for advice. SolarSpace’s mission was then planned to be a solar-powered outdoor trellis for students and community members to relax and socialize. Features would include a seating area, lights, charging stations and spaces to place electronics. The energy would be 100% clean provided by solar panels which the shelter would maintain on its slit roof. This project would provide learning opportunities, attract and retain future students, and uphold the campus’ drive for sustainability. We wanted this space to provide a learning opportunity by providing graphics explaining how renewable energy can become an active part of their daily lives as well as how SolarSpace functions.

We knew that we wanted SolarSpace to be for students, by students, so we began working on a design competition over winter break to hear how design students visualize SolarSpace. In late January, the competition ended with multiple designs submitted to us. We deliberated for a week or two and were able to select a final design, one that best fit our goals and vision. We worked with student designer Dong-Jae Yi over the month of February and March. Budget edits were being made, furniture designs were chosen, and colors for the metalwork were decided. Numerous on-site trips occurred to examine what could stay in the trellis and what had to leave, and conversations with carpenters and metalworkers were held to make sure our vision was communicated. We were even lucky enough to be able to reuse wood materials on campus for our table idea and repurposed benches for extra seating. Construction finally began in April and will be continuing until mid-June, and we are ecstatic to finally see our dream become a concrete part of campus. We are grateful for the campus-wide support. As NC State continues to integrate sustainability into its operations, academics and research, we want SolarSpace to be just one of many visual representations of student achievement, and continue to inspire students and prospectives.