While Connecticut College is well known for its extensive Arboretum plant collections and exquisite gardens, there’s a new flower on campus—a 16-foot solar SmartFlower.
Representing perhaps the most sophisticated sustainability project yet on campus, the high-tech, sculptural solar contraption is designed like a flower, with petals composed of solar panels. The SmartFlower’s efficiency stems from its functionality that mimics a real flower: The petals fold up at night, unfurl at daybreak and then rotate and track the sun throughout the day, allowing it to absorb more energy than standard, fixed solar panels.
Conn’s SmartFlower, connected to the Woodworth House building, is expected to produce 5,000 kWh each year, or about 40% of the electricity needs of the building.
The project was initiated by Avatar Simpson ’20 when he was a student at Conn. Simpson, an environmental studies major, secured $35,000 for the SmartFlower from the Sustainable Projects Fund, which is managed by the Student Government Association. After graduating from Conn, Simpson earned a Master of Science degree from Columbia University and is now a senior sustainability consultant at Agendi.
The SmartFlower is part of Conn’s extensive sustainability efforts, which include a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. The College is also in the planning phase for a large ground-mount solar array for the south end of campus that should produce electricity equivalent to about 7% of campus usage.