Built to hold cars, bikes and maybe a collection of power tools, home garages aren't necessarily the most exciting of places, being more of utilitarian spaces. But students at Vermont's Green Mountain College have another vision for the humble garage: a solar-panelled powerhouse for charging electric vehicles, with a built-in mini-greenhouse to boot.
The garage, which is currently located on the school's farm, is designed to optimize the performance of electric vehicles in frigid temperatures, and sports sixteen 3.86-kilowatt solar panels on its sloped roof, which produces the energy needed to charge vehicles. There is a passive solar south-oriented wall, covered with fiberglass, which will aid in the sprouting of crop plants during the spring. It's a thoughtful design element for serious gardeners, making the garage a integral part for self-sufficient food production.
Participating students designed and built this project as part of the college's Renewable Energy and Ecological Design (REED) course, which was completed during the semester. Their concept won a $50,000 grant from the Exelon / Constellation's E2 Energy to Educate program, which went toward the construction of the prototype.
The point of the project is to "Redesign to Realign" car-based lifestyles to a more sustainable model. Jetson Green quotes Dr. Steven Letendre, associate professor of economics and environmental studies and one of REED's instructor:
It’s clear that oil is becoming increasingly expensive and that carbon based nonrenewable fuels are contributing to climate destabilization. This project will demonstrate that solar energy can be a less expensive and renewable fuel for cars. In addition, cars that are connected to the grid can themselves become energy storage devices, potentially earning money for the owner.
It's an ambitious redesign, transforming the ubiquitous blight of the common garage into a food-growing energy producer that will not only house the car, but charge it too. More over at Jetson Green and REED's Olwen Solar Garage.