The Solar Greenhouse project began when an unexpected connection ignited between the members of the student group Renewable Energy Design (RED) and local Edmonton startup company Exceed Solar. The two groups first came together a couple of years before to explore how to bring a net-zero housing unit to campus.
Larry Zhong from RED, Bachelor of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering Co-op 2021 and Campus Sustainability Leaders Award 2020 winner, approached the teams at Energy Management and Sustainable Operations (EMSO) and Campus Planning and Space Optimization. Together they created a working group involving students and academics from several faculties.
Their first discussion quickly turned to sustainable gardening practices and aquaculture, utilizing the power of the sun and placing it in an accessible location on campus where everyone could see the possibilities and progress. The Solar Greenhouse project was established.
Combining research, testing and innovative technologies, the Solar Greenhouse project will transform the Campus Community Garden. It will also serve as a platform for training two co-op students and student volunteers from RED and the UAlberta Permaculture Group.
The project involves using a ready-made Sol Space Solar Greenhouse created by Exceed Solar. This ready-made greenhouse is being used as a laboratory to test the performance in the cold northern climate and evaluate the ability to support an aquaculture installation as well as gardening activities like seed-starting by members of the Sustain SU Campus Community Garden.
Although the pandemic threatened to slow or possibly halt the project, the program team persevered. They continued to explore the Solar Greenhouse project in person and then virtually.
After months of preparation, the project was successful in receiving $50,000 of funding from the Campus Sustainability Grants program for the initial greenhouses costs, student co-op placements and research costs over the next two years.
From sustainable building design to sustainable agriculture, their combination of perspectives and united dedication to building a more sustainable University of Alberta will propel this project and help shape the future of sustainability on campus.