ASUREI plans for greenhouse partnership with sustainable development program and wind turbines for research and energy

Logan Parks

CORRECTION:  A previous version of the story said that a partnership with the Department of Sustainable Development and Food Services will form after the solar greenhouse is completed. The partnership with the Department of Sustainable Development and Food Services started in January 2018, and an outside contractor will be selected for the construction of the greenhouse, Meghan McCandless, communications director for the College of Fine and Applied Arts, wrote in an email. The project will begin after a contractor is selected.

In the fight to reduce App State’s environmental impact, the App State Renewable Energy Initiative will work with the Department of Sustainable Development using cutting-edge technology to construct a solar greenhouse for students.

Responsible for implementing several sustainable projects on campus, including the Broyhill Wind Turbine and solar picnic tables in front of Peacock Hall, ASUREI is dedicated to making the university as sustainable as possible.

“I think sustainability is definitely one of the keystones of our university,” senior sustainable technology major and ASUREI committee chair Josh Leonard said. “The technology is important, but the optics and the principles of sustainability are what we really support in this organization.”

One upcoming project that received funding from ASUREI is a solar greenhouse for the sustainable development department’s Teaching and Research Farm. The 35-acre farm, located in Fleetwood, offers sustainable development students an opportunity to enhance their understanding of sustainable farming practices.

Courtesy of Leila Jackson
App State Renewable Energy Initiative held its spring forum on March 28. At the event, ASUREI members discussed their collaboration with the sustainable development department to build a solar greenhouse.

The solar greenhouse will use “phase change materials,” Leonard said.

Phase change materials collect and store solar thermal energy so unpredictable variables, such as sun exposure, affect energy efficiency less. Solar thermal energy stores heated materials, such as water, and converts them into energy.

ASUREI will also install two wind turbines on Beech Mountain. One will measure wind data and energy output, as well as provide a way for students to get hands-on experience with wind turbine operation. The maintenance, and the other will generate energy. ASUREI also received a large shipment of solar panels from SunPower, which Leonard said the organization will potentially install near the State Farm parking lot.

“That would be the largest photovoltaic solar array we have on campus,” Leonard said.

Photovoltaics is the process of turning light into energy, which is the standard process for solar panel technology.

ASUREI was conceived in 2004 by Ernie Hodgson, former president of the Sustainable Energy Society. Hodgson proposed the idea to the Student Government Association in hopes of drafting a bill that outlined the initiative’s goals and plans for funding. After SGA passed the bill, Chancellor Kenneth Peacock and the board of trustees approved it. ASUREI was officially formed in 2005.

“The way we’re funded now is through students,” Leonard said. “A portion of their tuition is set aside that’s roughly $5 per student, and that’s where we get pretty much all of our budget.”

Since 2005, ASUREI has promoted sustainability initiatives on campus by using its resources to construct technologies that reduce App State’s impact on the environment. ASUREI will hold a forum in the fall to update students on its progress.