Progress made on campus eGarden, completion date pushed back

The Geneseo eGarden has made several strides toward completion. Distinguished professor of physics Stephen Padalino and a team of physics students constructed two arrays of solar panels over the summer and a wind turbine is also close to being installed. According to senior Brandon Mark—a member of Padalino’s team—each of the solar arrays contains four panels that are wired in a series. “We installed the solar panels that are currently down there and we just did some battery efficiency tests now that we’re waiting for,” he said. “So we were just kind of getting an understanding on how that equipment works.”

The arrays—which can generate up to 250 watts each—rest on a pole with a gimbal. The gimbal is able to adjust according to the sun in order to harness as much poser as possible. That power is transferred into a bank of batteries, which are used to light up LED lamps. Those lamps use 10 watts of power, but they generate as much light as a 60-watt light bulb. The batteries are also used to power the tools being used on the site.

The wind turbine is also very close to being installed and the team is conducting experiments with different types of insulation.

“We’re trying to put together a system so that the turbine can be raised and lowered fairly easily as needed, so that students that are interested in engaging in that can look at it up close and can conduct experiments,” Director of Sustainability Dan DeZarn said. “The turbine will be placed on a pole with a hinge so that such raising and lowering can occur.

Students and faculty who work on the eGarden meet about once every two weeks. DeZarn explained that he hopes that faculty members from other departments will get involved with the project to show the various ways that their disciplines can utilize the facility.

The eGarden is an ongoing project. According to DeZarn, once the energy production facilities are built, an organic garden will be introduced where students can get involved in the food process. Some of that food will even be served at the dining halls on campus.

In addition, a compost area will be available for the food waste from the dining halls so that a group of black soldier fly larvae can consume it. This will minimize the use of landfills, which produce methane gas from decomposition. Methane gas harms the environment even more than carbon dioxide does.

DeZarn emphasized that the main goal of the eGarden is to provide an outlet for students interested in sustainable energy. “We are consuming our resources faster than they can be replenished at this point, so we need to figure out a way to put the brakes on that,” he said. “We need to reduce what we use and then also replace the way that we get energy right now with renewable sources.”

“I think [the eGarden] will serve as a really great research facility for students from any of the science majors,” Mark said. “It’s good for students or faculty who just want to learn more about alternative means for generating energy. It’s pretty much going to be a really good learning experience for everybody.”

DeZarn also noted that he views the garden as an opportunity for Geneseo community members both on and off campus to see it and get inspired. Next month, he will be hosting a tour for the Livingston County town supervisors to see the sustainability activities on campus. He added that he hopes the supervisors will be able to look at this project and see that pursuing solar energy is a realistic possibility.

DeZarn expressed excitement about the eGarden and the other sustainability initiatives on campus. “The people leaving this campus … are going to understand these new technologies that are hopefully going to make the world a much better place,” he said. “If [students and faculty] engage in this and they use this opportunity to both learn and teach others about renewable energy and sustainability in general, that’s how I see it as being a real, positive impact.”