UHD celebrates Green Mountain Energy’s sustainability grant
By Indira Zaldivar
The UHD & Green Mountain Energy Sun Club Virtual Solar Celebration on Nov. 17 spotlighted Green Mountain Energy’s sustainability grant towards a new 54-panel, ground mount, solar array with batteries on campus and research-grade photosynthesis equipment for student and faculty research.
The CST building is the first LEED gold-certified building in the University of Houston System. A previous gift from Green Mountain Energy funded the construction of two labs in the CST Building. This recent gift amounts to roughly $250,000 and furthers green initiatives on campus. The solar array will be installed adjacent to the White Oak Bayou and the south side of the CST Building to optimize its visibility to people in the community. After the installation of the solar array, the Environmental lab and first floor biology lab will run on solar energy.
J. Akif Uzman, Ph.D., UHD professor of biology and biochemistry, and dean of the College of Sciences and Technology said that the array also serves as an educational resource for students and faculty. The data collected on energy capture, its conversion from light to electricity, and its usage will be available to students and faculty in real time.
“This iconic piece of renewable energy along with several other engineering features of the Sciences and Technology Building prominently display and model sustainable energy and materials used to our local community,” Azmin said. “It demonstrates UHD’s commitment to pursue sustainability in urban spaces.”
Michael Tobin, Ph.D., associate professor of natural sciences at UHD said during the celebration that the research-grade photosynthesis equipment will help engage the students in plant biology and research projects. Angelinda Maldonado is among the students at UHD who are already reaping the benefits of this equipment on campus. Maldonado said she has measured the photosynthetic rate of leaves amid variables such as light changes.
Other students shared during the celebration how this grant also perpetuates the legacy of the Center for Urban Agriculture and Sustainability in their lives and communities.
Marina Zafiris, data science student at UHD and Spring 2020 Support Undergraduate Sustainable Technology and Agricultural Needs Scholar recounted how she and her team of three other students, designed and developed a mushroom incubator. Zafiris said the mushroom incubator could streamline and optimize food production of mushrooms.
“I was able to employ and expand my understanding of real time censored data management, interfaced design, and scientific visualization,” Zafiris said. “In addition to scientific growth, the SUSTAIN program taught me vital skills and task orientation and collaboration, especially when we transitioned to an online format due to COVID-19.”
Green Mountain Energy has summed to the list of UHD’s grantors that are making a lasting impact in the legacy of sustainability in the lives of UHD students and thus, communities in Houston. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also an important grantor that funded the new curriculum of cross-disciplinary studies for the CUAS which is part of the CST.
Lisa Morano, Ph.D., professor of biology and microbiology, and director of CUAS said that the future of sustainability is cross-disciplinary. That is why it is important for UHD students from all majors to join programs offered by CST and CUAS to learn how to implement and lead green initiatives towards a more sustainable world.
“W e can collect all the data we want, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to change people’s minds,” Morano said. “We need art; we need psychology; we need to think about the sustainability triangle which is economics, social stability, and the environment. If we just focus on one area, we will never make any progress.”
For more information about the programs offered by CUAS such as SUSTAIN Scholars, Eco-Reps, and UHD’s Gardening Project visit the Center for Urban Agriculture and Sustainability and College of Sciences and Technology official websites.