Construction of Solar Greenhouse stresses Sustainable Development & Food Security, Achieves Net-Zero

Updated: Feb 11

Students and Staff at the University of Alberta North Campus will have

all-year-access to fresh, sustainable produce.

December 9, 2020

The University of Alberta’s North Campus students and staff will have access to a solar greenhouse where they can cultivate fresh produce within a dense, urban environment. It is easy to forget how significant agriculture is in our daily lives when cities de-prioritize greenspaces as they are deemed inferior to established industrial development and urban planning practices. Such a heavy focus on developing concrete focused clusters has undermined the profound benefits that greenspaces provide to public health and quality of life.

Students are often busy studying, working, or doing both to sustain themselves throughout their university education. This schedule leaves little time for meal planning, which includes securing a healthy amount of fresh produce. Financial difficulties can create another barrier for students and perpetuates the inequality of access to fresh food. The Campus Food Bank and Fresh Routes have made positive impacts on the university community by providing additional support to students in financial need, but what more could be added to improve upon student financial and environmental sustainability?

A solar greenhouse not only operates as a public health service to its users but actively reducing the community’s carbon emissions. Edmonton-based renewable energy company Exceed Solar has partnered with the University of Alberta to build a year-round solar greenhouse that emphasizes locally sourced produce and sustainable agricultural development. The company uses the term ‘Sol Spaces’ for their projects because they understand the many barriers, such as minimal access to green spaces, facing urban communities and they present a straightforward and attainable approach to sustainable urban greenhouses. Sol Spaces challenges traditional living spaces by introducing green spaces that rely solely on sustainable solar energy.

As part of a collaborative effort involving student groups Sustain SU and the Renewable Energy Design Group (R.E.D.), a solar-powered off-grid greenhouse will make its way to the Student’s Union community garden at the U of A’s East Campus Village. North Campus researchers from various fields including engineering and permaculture will execute the building and installing of the greenhouse.

By engaging students in learning about sustainable permaculture and solar energy, students can enrich their existing post-secondary education experiences and add an environmental lens to their future work and research. Practical work via building, maintaining, or consuming the greenhouses’ yields enable student access to fresh produce all-year and provides every student with an opportunity to involve themselves in any respect they wish.

Sustainable development is overlooked for its supposed inefficiency and impracticality in today’s urban environments. However, this initiative challenges this narrative and presents solar energy as an accessible, durable, and sustainable net-zero alternative. The university community will be able to enjoy thriving permaculture during Edmonton’s coldest months and in turn impassion students and professionals to focus their endeavours on sustainable development.

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