Geneseo’s eGarden has installed a new electrical system with AC and DC circuits, allowing the power obtained from the garden’s two solar panels and wind turbine to be stored in the barn facility and distributed to various outlets and switches.
In order for the eGarden to generate power using the wind turbine, the wind needs to be blowing at least nine miles per hour, though it is optimal at around 11 miles per hour, which is the valley’s average wind speed.
Distinguished teaching professor of physics Stephen Padalino helped design the circuits. He said that eventually students and faculty working on the eGarden will use the saved energy to power lights inside and outside the building, computers and various other devices used in the barn.
The electrical system will also help run the eGarden’s waste oil furnace. The eGarden converts 1,200-1,400 gallons of waste from vegetable oils from the dining halls into biodiesel fuel.
“We can independently use any particular power source we want to supply power anywhere in here for any operation that we’re doing,” Padalino said. “Each one of these outlets will eventually have power readers on them and they’re going to be effective, kind of like a Bluetooth power meter so that we can read them with a computer and we’ll be able to keep track of our usage, our generation of power and how efficient we are at distributing that power.”
Over the summer, students will be working to set up a Wi-Fi access point to use these computers.
Approximately a dozen students in a variety of different disciplines are currently working on the eGarden, according to Padalino. Physics major freshman Kalil Hendel said that he enjoys this interdisciplinary aspect while working on the eGarden.
“One of my favorite things about the entire eGarden project is the blending of disciplines,” Hendel said. “Last semester, we were doing more data analysis with the e-cart and we were working with a geography major in order to get better GPS data of the campus maps so we could cross reference it with the data that we were getting to get more accurate readings for acceleration.”
Another project students working for the eGarden are currently developing would turn algae into biodiesel fuel, which can help citizens in developing countries use alternative fuels for energy.
“People have made energy from corn by turning it into ethanol, but corn is a very good crop to eat instead of turning it into ethanol and burning it,” Padalino said. “So, in third world countries they would never think of taking food, which they need to eat, and turning it into fuel. But if you could grow something else, like algae, then they could possibly make fuel out of it.”
Over the summer, students and faculty will be working with a computer software program from the National Institute of Health—similar to programs used to count stars—in order to count how much algae grows automatically. Members of the eGarden team are also planning to develop a new greenhouse in which to grow the algae.
Hendel said that all Geneseo students are welcome to volunteer for the eGarden regardless of their academic background.
“There’s absolutely things for students who are purely interested in data analysis, the physics side of it, students who want to do a lot of programming and all that,” Hendel said. “So, I would recommend for anyone to get involved; if you have even an interest in science, it’s probably something that you can do, and there will usually be someone willing to pick up on the hard science that maybe is a little bit out of your pay grade."