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sustainability.psu.edu

Sustainability Experience Center

solar home

The nine-acre Sustainability Experience Center, newly 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 future home of the campus's student farm, the site is already home to the campus community garden and five ongoing research and outreach projects hosted by various departments and colleges in the university. 

Perhaps most recognized of these projects is The MorningStar Solar Home, a 100% renewable-energy powered home that 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.

The MorningStar Home was built for the 2007 Solar Decathlon by a team of more than 800 students and faculty, and 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 architecture, engineering, lighting and 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.

Another highly visible project at the Sustainability Experience Center is the Eco-MachineTM, a biodigester that can purify wastewater while producing valuable agricultural products. 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. 

It is quite easy to visit the Sustainability Experience Center to see these and other projects on the site (see map here)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 Audrey McSain or Diana Malcom.

 


SCHEDULE A TOUR

If you would like to inquire about organizing a tour of the site or one of its projects for your group, please send us an email.