Our second field trip with the Computational Sustainability class was probably my favorite out of any of the activities I’ve done with a class.
This time our class took us to the Santa Fe Community College (SFCC). The SFCC works mostly like a microgrid structure (they generate a fraction of the power they use, but are still connected to the main power grid — e.g. PNM). However, we did get to explore some of their sites that are in fact completely off-the-grid.
My favorite spot was probably their geodesic dome where they showed us how aquaponics and hydroponics agriculture work. With this approach, plants are cultivated by floating in water, rather than sitting in soil. Right next to this they had a “Farm Pod,” which operates completely off-the-grid. It’s a shipping container with solar panels, which work for both power (voltaic) and for heat (thermal). On the bottom they had live fish—mostly tilapia at the time, and we got to feed them! On top of the container, they have a vertical “garden” inside a greenhouse. The plants at the top use filtered, recycled water from the fish tanks. Then these plants take the nutrients they need and help to clean the water, which is sent back down to the fish tanks.
Similar solar voltaic and solar thermal systems are used for the rest of the SFCC campus.
I never expected that this class would give us the chance to experience firsthand so many wonderful sustainable practices in our state! That same day at Santa Fe, we also got the chance to play with more experimental and/or artistic approaches to ecology and sustainability.