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Sustainability Experience Center

solar home


If you would like to inquire about organizing a tour of the site, one of its projects for your group, or use of the Morningstar Classroom, please complete the tour/classroom request form.

The nine-acre Sustainability Experience Center, coordinated by the Sustainability Institute, lies on the edge of Penn State's University Park campus and provides a living laboratory for students, faculty, and the community to research and learn about sustainability.  The site provides an ideal location to explore food, energy, water, land and community systems.  The site is home to the campus Community Garden and five ongoing research and outreach projects hosted by various departments and colleges in the university.   

The Eco-MachineTM, a biodigester that can purify wastewater while producing valuable agricultural products is a joint gift of the Classes of 2000 and 1950.  The system uses anaerobic bacteria and plants to purify wastewater, making it safe to be released back into the environment or used for irrigation. At the same time, recent research at the site has found that the historically invasive aquatic duckweed plant can also be supported with this system. Duckweed is rich in protein and contains all the essential amino acids, making it a possible food source for both people and livestock and also a potent agricultural fertilizer. 

Another highly visible project at the Sustainability Experience Center is the MorningStar Solar Home, a 100% renewable-energy powered home produces all the energy needed for its operation (plus some extra for electric vehicles). MorningStar is currently used by teachers and faculty across Penn State as an immersive learning destination for teaching and learning about sustainability and features a host of sustainable building practices and includes solar, wind, and geothermal energy systems. It is also used for research in the topics of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and smart grid systems.  Built for the 2007 Solar Decathlon by a team of more than 800 students and faculty, it was designed to provide a tangible example of sustainable design and energy strategies that are relevant to our climate in Pennsylvania. The home was first assembled at Penn State and engineered for transport to Washington, D.C. During the decathlon, thousands of visitors toured the competing homes while the student teams used their homes to score points in 10 decathlon contests including engineering, marketability. The Penn State team scored fourth place in the field of 20 international universities. At the close of the decathlon, students disassembled MorningStar and transported it back to Penn State, where it stands permanently for the benefit of Penn State and Pennsylvania's communities.

There is also a room known as the MorningStar Classroom Room which is under the solar home. This room has wireless, display screens, enough room for ten, and is set up in the style of a classroom. Furthermore, it is available to be used for university classes and other events. In order to reserve the conference room, please complete the SEC Tour/Classroom request form.

It is quite easy to visit the Sustainability Experience Center to see these and other projects on the site (see map here). Tour hours are between 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., weather permitting. If you would like to inquire about organizing a tour of the site, one of its projects for your group, or use of the Morningstar Classroom, please complete the tour/classroom request form. 
Travel Tip: When traveling via the CATA Bus Blue Loop, get off at the Jordan East Parking lot, cross Porter Road, and walk toward the tall wind turbine. If there are any questions about the site, please contact Diana Malcom. HERE ARE A FEW MORE QUICK TIPS TO HELP YOU PREPARE FOR YOUR TOUR.