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ASU Student Team Wins EPA Award for Solar Greenhouse

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By: Nanci Bompey (NBOMPEY@CITIZEN-TIMES.COM)
In: Citizen Times.com exit EPA
May 7, 2007 12:15 am

BOONE — A team of students from Appalachian State University’s Department of Technology has won a $75,000 award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the development of an affordable solar greenhouse.

The ASU team was one of six college teams chosen to receive the EPA’s P3 award, the result of a national competition for college students to develop sustainable energy solutions.

“We have an opportunity to continue the work we’re doing and that’s really a privilege,” said Yonatan Strauch, a graduate student at ASU and the project coordinator.

The EPA’s P3 Award was presented to the team last month at the agency’s National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington.

Appalachian State University graduate students Stony Oswald,   Joe Smith, Yonatan Strauch and faculty adviser Brian Raichle
Credit: Special to the Citizen-Times
Appalachian State University graduate students Stony Oswald, Joe Smith, Yonatan Strauch and faculty adviser Brian Raichle stand next to the liquid foam insulation display on the National Mall in Washington. The foam is part of the team’s Affordable Bioshelters Project, which won a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s P3 award, the result of a national competition to develop sustainable energy solutions.

The school’s Affordable Bioshelters Project was chosen to receive the award from among 42 university teams that displayed their projects on the National Mall.

The project developed an affordable solar greenhouse that incorporated both subsoil heat storage and liquid foam insulation. The design allows farmers to power a greenhouse using renewable energy, enabling them to grow crops during the winter at low economic and environmental costs.

While solar greenhouses are nothing new, the technologies that they typically employ make them very expensive, said the team’s faculty adviser, Brian Raichle.

“The students came up with a technology that provided the same benefits, but at a cost that farmers can tolerate,” he said. “It is truly the difference between growing crops during the winter and not.”

The team won an initial $10,000 Phase I award last year, that helped the students to develop the greenhouse technology and the students will use this latest Phase II award to test their design, optimize the foam solution and develop a way to retrofit existing greenhouses with the technology.

“I think we will have something credible to put out one year from now,” Strauch said.

This is the third year of the P3 program, which was launched in 2003 to promote innovative thinking for moving the world toward sustainability.

“The whole program started as a way to tap into the expertise and innovativeness of college students,” said P3 program manager Cynthia Nolt-Helms.

She said ASU’s team received the award not only for its design, but also for the way the team engaged the local community by working with farmers in the area.

This is the second year that ASU has won the P3 award. Last year’s team won for its Collaborative Biodiesel Project.

“This is the next generation of scientists that we have to depend on to tackle the big environmental issues,” Nolt-Helms said. “This is a way for them to come up with real solutions to real problems.”

On the Net: Learn more about P3 and the award at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/p3

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