Renewable eGarden growing on campus

After years of planning, Geneseo’s eGarden is beginning to take shape. The sustainability initiative started as a $50,000 wind turbine project, but quickly evolved into something bigger.

“We were looking at whether it made sense to put up a $50,000 wind turbine to try and offset energy production,” Director of Sustainability Dan DeZarn said. “At the time, it didn’t make a huge amount of sense. We decided to take the $50,000 … as start-up money for an educational/undergraduate research facility about renewable energy and sustainability practices.”

The eGarden is currently a fenced off plot of land located west of Letchworth Dining Hall next to the outdoor basketball courts. When it is completed, however, it will be an acre of land containing a small barn that can be used by several different departments.

“It is set up to be somewhat loose right now so that a lot of different things could happen there,” DeZarn said. “I could make arguments for any discipline on campus engaging with it in a variety of ways. I think on its surface, it seems like a science project, but I think that it extends beyond that in many ways.”

In addition to the barn, the eGarden will have “two poles with [solar] panels mounted on them and a wind turbine.” These will help to make the facility self-sustaining. According to an eGarden report, a 3.5 kilowatt Kestrel Wind Turbine was purchased on May 24, 2013 for $14,376. That turbine is currently in storage.

The eGarden will also be home to a group of black soldier fly larvae that will compost food waste from the dining halls on campus.

“The larvae will consume food waste and then the byproduct of the food waste will ultimately be agricultural resources in the way of soil amendments and possibly feed stock for things like an aquaponics project or an aquaculture project,” DeZarn said.

To complete the circle, the eGarden will also be growing foods for the dining halls that are “high-cost, small-footprint.”

“To buy basil, it costs some money, but it doesn’t really take up that much space to grow,” DeZarn said. “It would ultimately go to the dining hall so that we’re generating some of our own food here.”

The impact that the eGarden should have on the Geneseo community will go beyond undergraduate research and on campus sustainability, according to DeZarn; it will provide students the opportunity to learn about being eco-friendly in the long-term.

“If you’re interested in putting solar panels in your yard or putting a wind turbine on your property or something like that or composting, you can come check out the things that we have going on here,” he said. “[We] have a concrete facility for getting people thinking about these sorts of things and, when people have these ideas, having a place to explore them.”

DeZarn said he estimates that the eGarden will be up and running by mid-June of this year and that it should be open for student projects by next semester.