1) EPA P3 Grant Helps Researchers at Appalachian Explore Affordable Alternative Energy Options
Making a living as the owner of a small farm can be a hit or miss proposition. Farm owners must battle the weather, pests and rising energy costs as they bring their crops to market. A group of Appalachian State University faculty and students is working on ways to help local farmers by providing economical alternative energy heat sources for greenhouses that could help farmers in cold, mountainous regions extend the growing season through the winter. Drs. Ok-Youn Yu, Jim Houser and David Domermuth from the Department of Technology and Environmental Design have received an EPA P3 phase I grant totaling $15,000 for their project titled “Greenhouse heating with biomass.” The award follows a series of projects and previous EPA P3 grants that have supported construction of the department’s 20-by-30-foot greenhouse located at the former Watauga County landfill. This is the site for incorporating appropriate technologies such as bio-volatilization (BV), biogas, anaerobic digester (AD) and composting systems into heat energy sources for the greenhouse. The latest EPA P3 funding will enable the professors to collect data related to the heat energy value derived from methane produced from farm manure that has been processed with an anaerobic digester, and heat energy generated through a composting process. Yu is an assistant professor in building science and civil engineer, principal investigator of the grant and oversees its administration. His graduate students and he are developing a monitoring and data acquisition system for the greenhouse that will provide the researchers important data regarding the various systems’ energy production and use. Graduate students in physics are writing a program for a micro controller that will integrate the various heat energy sources. “We want to integrate and optimize these different systems to enable local farmers, especially those in western North Carolina, to extend their crop growing season,” Yu said. “Sometimes, the greenhouse might use heat energy produced from the BV system and other times might use heat energy from the composting system. Our challenge is to develop a system that is simple to operate, economical and efficient so that farmers will be willing to use it.” Yu and Domermuth have already developed an economical, small-scale BV method to convert biomass, such as woodchips, agricultural and forest waste to biofuel and useful biochar. Waste energy created from the BV process can heat the greenhouse and the fuel created can be used to run a generator to produce electricity for lighting. This work was funded by a $45,000 grant the professors received in 2013 from the N.C. Agricultural Foundation. Domermuth, a professor who focuses on industrial design, said the department’s demonstration greenhouse is called Nexus because it integrates several heating systems – bio-volatilization (BV), aerobic digester (AD) and compost heating systems – along with the expertise of faculty from different academic areas on campus, such as chemistry, biology and physics. A prototype of their work will be part of the Annual National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington. D.C., in spring 2015, where the students and professors will compete for a $75,000 phase II award to take their design to real-world application. Houser, an assistant professor in appropriate technology, said ease of use and affordability are key as researchers explore the various heat energy sources. “We don’t want these systems to be too complicated. That’s part of the aspect of appropriate technology. They cannot be real high maintenance or real expensive,” he said. “There have been a lot of issues in the past where this type of technology transfer has fallen into disuse because the systems are too hard to keep up,” Houser said. “That’s what we would like to avoid, but I can’t say we are there yet because we are just starting this process. We will learn. That’s what research is all about.”
2) Boone Service League to Hold Market, Gift Wrapping Fundraisers
The Boone Service League will again partner with the Watauga Education Foundation to hold a Holiday Market at the annual Flapjack Flip Fundraiser. The event will be held at Watauga High School from 7:30-11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6. Stop by for breakfast and shop the Holiday Market vendors for holiday gifts – all in time to catch the Boone Christmas Parade in downtown Boone. BSL members will once again offer holiday gift-wrapping services at the Boone Mall, beginning at 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 12. Look for the Boone Service League gift-wrapping table across from Bath and Body works on Friday to Sunday, Dec. 12-14; Friday through Wednesday, Dec. 19-24. The Boone Service League is a nonprofit organization that raises funds for emergency needs, projects, scholarships and charities throughout the High Country. All funds raised by the Boone Service League remain in the High Country. Visit www.BooneServiceLeague.org for more information.
3) Watauga Education Foundation Hosts Flapjack Flip Dec. 6
The Watauga Education Foundation will host a Flapjack Flip on Dec. 6. Available will be pancakes, local sausage, country ham and homemade blueberry syrup. Featured will be Santa Claus, musicians, holiday shopping and raffle packages. The event will be held from 7:30-11 a.m. at Watauga High School.
4) Town of Beech Mountain Sledding Hill Report
Greetings! Weather permitting – think snow – the Beech Mountain Sledding Hill is scheduled to be open on Friday, Nov. 28, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. We hope everyone enjoys Thanksgiving – thanks to all! Remember, the Sledding Hill, located next to the visitor center on Beech Mountain will be open during the following hours if weather permits: Regular Sledding Hill Hours – 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Special holiday hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 28. The hill will be closed on Thanksgiving.
5) Boone Country Dancers Host Contra Dance Dec. 6
The Boone Country Dancers will be at the Old Cove Creek School in Sugar Grove for its next community contra dance on Saturday, December 6. Everyone is welcome to attend the contra dance regardless of dance experience. The evening will begin with a beginners’ workshop from 7:30-8:00 p.m. The goal of the workshop is to teach the fundamentals of contra dance with a focus on having fun. After the workshop, the regular dance will run from 8:00-11:00 p.m. with a waltz break at 9:30 p.m. The dance will feature the band Spinning Wheel and the caller will be AnneMarie Walter. Dancers of all ages are encouraged to attend and no partner is necessary. Come as you are and wear clean, soft-soled flexible shoes for dancing. As always, our dances are smoke and alcohol free. Admission to the dance is $7 for adults, $5 for high school students, and free to anyone 12 years old or younger. For further information please visit the Boone Country Dancers webpage at boonecountrydancers.org.
6) Events at the Watauga County Public Library
The Library will be closed for the following days in December: For staff training on Dec. 4, for the holidays on Dec. 23, 25, 26 and Jan. 1. The library will close at 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. Dec. 8-13 in Amnesty Week. Bring in canned goods and the library will deduct $1 per item from library fines and fees. This offer is not applicable on lost or damaged items. A Christmas Reception will be held following the Boone Christmas Parade on Saturday, Dec. 6 at noon. After the parade, come enjoy cookies, hot chocolate and apple juice. Christmas craft tables will be set up for the kids. Santa is expected to show up too! Candy cane reminders will be tossed at the parade.