Pace’s First Solar Tree to be Installed in Kessel Lawn


The beginning of the installation of Pace’s first-ever solar tree, on Kessel lawn

Stefano Ausenda , Contributing Editor

On Monday, October 7, after almost two years of planning and almost three years of discussion, Pace University’s first-ever solar tree will be installed on Kessel Lawn.

This ‘tree’ is not a tree at all. According to Vladimir Kowalyk, Project Manager for capital projects on Pace’s Pleasantville and White Plains campuses, it’s  actually a sculpture which takes the abstract form of a tree, with metal branches and solar panels for the “leaves.”

“The tree generates power, has USB ports for charging devices and an LED screen built into it,” Kowalyk said. “The tree is also self-illuminated, so it will cast aglow at night, and if anyone wants to sit underneath it [at night], it will already be lit up using its own power.”

The idea was proposed in March 2017 by two students in Pace’s Environmental Policy graduate program, Pavan Naidu and Alexandra DeRosa, with help from the Student Government Association and other university personnel. Environmental Studies Associate Clinical Professor Michelle Land, JD, served as the students’ faculty mentor on the project.

According to Land, when the two students pitched the idea, there were only a  small handful of solar trees in the entire country, all of which were either in California or North Carolina.

“Since [2017], many more trees have popped up around the country,” Land said, “but Pace University is still on the leading edge of this cool, innovative trend.”

The University started discussing how to proceed with the proposed tree in October of 2017, but for a long time, nothing happened. According to Kowalyk, it wasn’t until January of 2019 that the project really started to gain traction.

“The students had to follow a rigorous decision-making process to ensure a legitimate outcome [for the tree],” Land said. “Research, design, student and administrative support, and fundraising.”

Kowalyk believes that one of the main reasons why the project took so long to get off the ground was a lack of adequate funding.  Despite the university operating an online crowdfunding effort and receiving a $25,000 grant from ConEdison, they didn’t have enough money to complete the project until they received a second $25,000 grant from ConEdison.

Once the project gained the traction it needed, the tree’s design was introduced to students and staff at a charette in May, where, according to Kowalyk, there were no opposing or negative comments from students.

The tree was engineered, designed and manufactured in Israel and it arrived on campus about two weeks ago and is currently stored next to Ianniello Field House. According to Kowalyk, it will take about two to three days to completely install.

“What [the two students] hoped to get out of [the tree] was threefold,” Land said. “To create a gathering place for students, to demonstrate Pace’s commitment to sustainability, and to install a piece of functional art that can be enjoyed by the Pace community.”

Land hopes that once installed, the tree will show students how important renewable energy is and how interesting and fun it can be, and how it’s an essential path to a sustainable future.