Barn construction, solar panel additions built in eGarden

Further developments on Geneseo’s eGarden took place in November. The initial intention of building a wind turbine has grown into an ongoing sustainability project for the campus. In addition, construction of a metal barn began before Thanksgiving.

The outside of the barn has been completed while the inside remains to be finished. Assistant Vice President for Facilities and Planning and the primary Facilities representative to the eGarden committee George Stooks explained that the barn will serve two primary functions. “They will be doing a black soldier fly experiment in there, which is a composting experiment,” he said. “The larvae of the flies eat waste that normally wouldn’t be in a compost pile.”

Black soldier flies have been housed in the greenhouse since the college first purchased them last spring as part of an effort to improve waste disposal efficiency through bioconversion.

“The other portion of the barn will be used to house the monitoring equipment from the power generation’s side of the house,” Stooks said. “We’re building it to try and be flexible so we can take stuff out, put new stuff in, as they—meaning the faculty and students—change how they want to use those arrays and what the experiments are with them.”

Stooks is also assisting in setting up a micro-grid for the eGarden.

“A micro-grid can be any number of things combined. It can be solar power, it could be wind power, it could be power generated from methane gas from the digesters,” he said. “So it’s a number of physical power generating elements that come together to ultimately establish a small grid that would power a number of buildings—ideally the campus and maybe other things … in case we lost power from the main distribution grid.”

Stooks noted that the wind turbine will soon be finished as well. “We are working on getting some engineering support for elements that will help raise and lower it. We already have the element to raise it,” he said. “And then once we have some brackets in place and those other elements to help take it down and put it back up, we will be putting the turbine head on it, standing it up and letting it run into a battery bank as a source of where the energy will go.”

Student volunteer junior Cara Gannett explained that she has recently been working on an experiment with solar power.

“My big project this semester was creating two large solar hot air collectors,” she said. “And so we built these two four-by-eight-foot frames and filled them with two different materials: One’s filled with black spray paint and soda cans and the other one’s filled with brown aluminum metal downspout pipe. They’re absorbing heat from the sun and that heat’s going to be output into storage cans and then be used to heat buildings.”

Senior Jennifer Lomaki has also been experimenting with solar energy by looking at photovoltaic solar panel arrays.

“We’re looking at how the load we can place on the panels—so how much energy can be produced—like the maximum amount that we can get the output from that,” she said.

In the future, the eGarden may “look at the difference in the efficiency and the power output based on a fixed panel versus a tracking panel,” Lomaki added.

A micro-algae project is also underway. Four ponds will hold algae which will convert sunlight into biofuel. In addition, a team of students has finished installing a solar-powered golf cart that uses a solar panel to collect energy from the sun and charge the cart.

According to Lomaki, students typically meet once a week to keep the eGarden team updated with the multitude of projects happening.

Stooks said he believes the eGarden has had a great impact on the student volunteers.

“It’s interesting to watch the different students interact with their different experiments, because I know one of the things that it’s been primarily physics students, but I know there are biology students and chemistry students that are involved as well,” he said. “And at some of the eGarden meetings where all of those are represented, it’s interesting to watch the interaction … as they exchange information and you can see ideas forming.”

Lomaki expressed her hope that more students from a variety of majors will get involved.

“Right now, we have about 10 students working on projects,” she said. “But I think that it’d be really cool if we could branch out and get some more students involved—maybe more people outside the physics department.”