Solar panels to be featured outside of President’s Park to aid sustainability measures.
BY ERICA MUNISAR, NEWS EDITOR
A new Solar Greenhouse Project is coming to Mason pending completion near Summer 2024 to help Mason reach its sustainability goal of carbon reduction, and the idea was led by one of the universities’ own students, senior Crystal Bowers.
The Solar Greenhouse Project is a $120,000 project that will install ground-mounted solar panels feeding into the President’s Park existing Hydroponic Greenhouse located outside of Ike’s Dining Hall.
It will also feature opportunities for agriculture, which when combined with solar energy may remove a portion of the greenhouse’s electricity off Mason’s large-scale power grid. The Solar Greenhouse will be funded $20,000 by the Patriot Green Fund, and given an additional $100,000 from their partner Mason Facilities.
Bowers has always cared about sustainability measures at Mason as in the past she gained experience in the field as a prior Advanced Materials for Energy and Environmental Sustainability research assistant, nuclear engineering intern, wind reliability intern and an upcoming nuclear fuels intern. Bowers decided that there were more steps Mason could take towards a green planet after taking inspiration from an empty plot of land on campus. “As I walked around George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus, I noticed a lack of solar panels. I started this project [in Fall 2021] to reduce the Mason community’s carbon footprint and to enable students to gain hands-on experience,” said Bowers.
“I am very passionate about clean energy and was eager to create a solution that would positively impact the Mason community. Despite the President’s Park Hydroponic Greenhouse’s small blueprint, it is a highly energy-intensive building that emits a considerable amount of greenhouse gases. This project is in accordance with Mason’s development of a new Climate Action Plan and will aid in George Mason University’s pursuit of achieving carbon neutrality.”
Bowers notes that she could not have completed her endeavors without the assistance of her team, Mason Facilities, the Office of Sustainability and the Patriot Green Fund who approved the project and provided the initial funding.
“I am grateful to everyone who has supported this project and for the advising from Dr. Colin Reagle, Ms. Donielle Nolan, and our Patriot Green Fund Liaison Ms. Sarah D’Alexander.”
In addition to Mason administration, a multidisciplinary team of students ranging from majors of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, government and international politics, computer science, cybersecurity engineering, and environmental science were crucial to the success of the project. The student team consists of Crystal Bowers as Student Project Manager, Jacob Schwartz, Erin MacMonigle, Josh Merriman, Allan Nguyen, Rida Hasan, Ronald Santos Garcia, Lizzie Weems, Jose Bejarano, Gustavo Sagastume, Sophia Nguyen and Abigail Kokkinakis.
Bowers wants to inspire other students to follow in her footsteps and take action where they see fit to create change in the world and themselves.
“Pursue personal projects, join student organizations, seek out internships, conduct research, and take advantage of the opportunities available at the university. George Mason University’s Patriot Green Fund and the Greenhouse and Gardens Academic Internship Program are amazing ways to get involved!”
The project itself should leave a unique impact on Mason and help them fulfill their future goals, says Bowers, “Students walking to their dorms or Ike’s Dining Hall will have a clear view of the solar panels outside of the greenhouse as a daily reminder of the university’s commitment to sustainability. This will greatly improve the awareness of sustainability issues for the entire Mason community and promote environmental stewardship. This ground-mounted solar installation will be Mason’s first at the Fairfax Campus.”
Bowers and their team will be looking for volunteers as the project develops. Students who want to get connected can follow the organization’s Instagram handle @solargreenhousegmu to follow their updates and get notified of volunteering opportunities.