On October 21, 2015, local farmers and the general public were invited to learn about our research on a biomass greenhouse heating system. This event was a part of the third annual National Bioenergy Day and provided the public site tours and the opportunity to learn about biomass and renewable energy. This special event was designed to introduce the on-going research on biomass and bioenergy from Appalachian State University (ASU) to the local community.
Faculty and students from the departments of Sustainable Technology & the Built Environment and Applied Design at ASU have built a 20 ft. by 30 ft. greenhouse including a small scale pyrolysis system, solar thermal heating system, compost heating system, an anaerobic digestion (AD) system, and aquaponics system using several grants including EPA funding and NCDA. This ready-to-test site, called "Nexus," is located at the Watauga County Landfill, in Boone, NC. Faculty and students at ASU are experimenting with a synergistic approach to renewable energy and sustainable living.
Our biomass greenhouse heating system utilizes all kinds of the feedstock typically available on a small farm, which can be an affordable greenhouse-heating energy source for those seeking lower energy costs. AD and compost generate energy from readily digestible materials and the pyrolysis system handles relatively indigestible biomass, such as wood scrap. Not only is heat energy produced but also high quality soil amendments, e.g., compost, digester slurry, and bio-char, which help increase productivity.
In other words, the Nexus is the sustainable closed-loop production system that uses agricultural wastes to generate energy for greenhouse and soil. The proposed low-cost biomass greenhouse heating systems will help resource-limited farmers to extend their growing season, benefiting: community by enhancing access to fresh local produce, farmers by increasing the income in cold season, and the local environment by saving fossil-fuel energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions normally associated with greenhouse heating and transportation of non-local produce.