Allegheny College Awarded $37,500 Grant to Heat, Power Greenhouse

Allegheny College has been awarded a $37,500 grant to power and heat a small-scale greenhouse using energy that would otherwise be wasted.

The E 2 Energy to Educate grant from Constellation, an Exelon company, is part of $380,000 the company awarded to 17 projects reaching more than 35,000 students, grade six through college, in 10 states. Grant funds support projects “designed to enhance students’ understanding of science and technology, and inspire them to think differently about energy.”

“The financial and institutional support provided by one of the leading energy companies in the United States will allow the environmental science department to construct a cutting-edge greenhouse at the vital juncture of sustainable energy and sustainable agriculture,” said Eric Pallant, the Christine Scott Nelson Professor of Environmental Sustainability at Allegheny College.

The greenhouse, to be built in the middle of Allegheny’s Carr Hall garden, will use innovative heating and photovoltaic systems to maintain a microclimate within the greenhouse for year-round food production, said Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Ian Carbone. The roof of the greenhouse will be composed of luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs), a novel photovoltaic technology that can generate electricity from “wasted” light. The panels capture and convert unusable wavelengths into electricity while allowing photosynthetically active light to reach the plants below. Waste vegetable oil recovered from campus dining facilities will power a heating system.

Students will be able to monitor and assess energy consumption in a state-of- the-art facility that will benefit the campus and community at large.

“The greenhouse will not only extend the growing season, helping meet campus food needs, but also teach thousands of students, visitors and community members about energy resources derived from recoverable waste,” said Kelly Boulton, the college’s sustainability coordinator.

Construction of the greenhouse is slated to start in May.

Since its inception in 2010, Constellation’s Energy to Educate grants program has provided more than $2.6 million in funding for 85 student projects that have enhanced the understanding of energy-related science and technology issues.