Biomass Greenhouse-Heating Systems to Extend Growing Seasons for Resource-Limited Farmers

EPA Grant Number: SU835695
Title: Biomass Greenhouse-Heating Systems to Extend Growing Seasons for Resource-Limited Farmers
Investigators: Yu, Ok-Youn , Domermuth, David , Houser, James
Current Investigators: Yu, Ok-Youn , Domermuth, David , Ferrell, Jeremy , Houser, James , Oh, Sang-Hwa
Institution: Appalachian State University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2014 through August 14, 2015
Project Amount: $14,806
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability

Objective:

This grant request focuses on one aspect of a holistic approach to best practices for agriculture, water, energy, waste management, and community. Due to the mountainous terrain and climate conditions in Appalachia, most farms in the region are small and family owned. Therefore, Appalachia farmers struggle to maintain profitability with limited acreage, low profit margins, small markets and short growing seasons. In order to extend the growing season, many farmers in Appalachia dedicate a portion of their limited acreage to greenhouse production. However, the requisite heating and energy costs exclude many producers from being able to afford a greenhouse. The purpose of this project is to build and test various inexpensive and efficient biomass heat delivery systems for a greenhouse in order to research and demonstrate how to improve local crop productivity for farmers in Appalachia or cold mountainous regions.

Approach:

The Department of Technology and Environmental Design at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC has built a 20 feet by 30 feet greenhouse, a bio-volatilization (BV) system, and an anaerobic digestion (AD) system. This ready-to-test site called the “Nexus” is located at the Watauga County Landfill, in Boone, NC. BV and AD systems already existing at Nexus, will be integrated into the research as sources of biomass energy. In addition, a compost heating system will be built with funds from this grant effort. Therefore, our biomass greenhouse heating system will involve AD, BV and compost energy sources, utilizing all of the feedstocks typically available on a small farm. AD and compost will generate energy from readily digestible materials and the BV system will handle relatively indigestible biomass, such as wood scrap. Various methods of heat storage and delivery to the greenhouse will also be investigated.

Expected Results:

In order to determine the energy needs for the greenhouse it is necessary to determine heat loss from the greenhouse. The heat demand for a greenhouse will be calculated including the amount of heat loss through a static surface of known insulating value. In addition to a greenhouse losing heat through the glazing material, a greenhouse loses heat through air infiltration, especially in windy environments like Boone. Combining these two heat loss equations we can estimate the amount of heat the greenhouse will need to maintain a given temperature. The amount of energy from the different biomass systems will be estimated and monitored. Ultimately, the test of the overall system will be the maintenance of greenhouse temperature at a given level for an extended period regardless of outside ambient temperatures.

Supplemental Keywords:

sustainable agriculture, biogas, syngas

Relevant Websites:

P3 Phase 2: Biomass Greenhouse-heating systems to extend growing seasons for resource-limited farmers

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • P3 Phase II:

    Biomass Greenhouse-heating systems to extend growing seasons for resource-limited farmers  | 2016 Progress Report  | 2017 Progress Report