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Seventh Annual Appalachian Energy Summit Brings Awareness to Sustainable Energy

By Joan Brook

The 2018 Appalachian Energy Summit brought industrial leaders and students from around the world for three days to Appalachian State University.

Sustainable energy techniques were demonstrated and future policy goals discussed. Several students opted to visit two small greenhouse farms in the Boone area that utilize student designed biomass heating systems that maximize heat in order to promote longer growing seasons in the Appalachian Mountain area.

“The 2018 Appalachian Energy Summit focuses on current and future leaders who work to make the world a better place,” says Dr. Lee Ball, Chief Sustainability Officer at Appalachian State University. “Whether through the continuing development of clean energy or the advancement of sustainable communities, leaders of today and tomorrow have an opportunity to lead with integrity for the good of all.”  

The first tour was at the Springhouse Farm in Vilas.

BioChar kiln to the left. Solar panels on top. Green house in the background.
Jeremy Ferrell, program Director of Sustainable Technology, demonstrates the heat generated from the solar thermal food dehydration system. This system uses excess heat generated from the solar panels.
BioChar kiln on the left. BioChar is wood heated to a very high temperature without combustion. It’s a good soil amendment using sequestered carbon.
Starter plants inside the greenhouse heated mostly by a combination of solar energy and BioChar.
Control panel for the solar thermal systems.
Harrison White, undergraduate and research assistant at ASU (left) Gabbie Batzko, undergraduate and research assistant at ASU, Jeremy Ferrell, Program Director, and Ian Ballie, Warren Wilson College.
View of the farm from inside the greenhouse.
View of the greenhouses at Springhouse Farm.

Next up, interested observers traveled to Against the Grain Farm in Zionville for a tour of the 35-acre farm located about 15 minutes from downtown Boone. 

Farmhouse home of Against The Grain owners Holly Whitesides and Andy Bryant.
Jeremy Ferrell holding farm sign.
Greenhouse with solar panels installed.
Jeremy Ferrell demonstrates the biochar kiln system where BioChar pellets are made
BioChar stored in a barrel.
Starting beds using root zone heating created by BioChar.
LED heating augmentation system as demonstrated by Ben Nammay, a two-year farm employee.
Larger “hoop house” greenhouse.
Tomatoes are a major crop benefitting farmers by a larger growing system.
Peppers inside the greenhouse.
Andy Bryant, owner of Against The Grain.
“No BioChar” sign showing plants grown without BioChar soil augmentation. BioChar helps retain nutrients and moisture while improving the soil structure due to the addition of organic matter.
Andy Bryant addressing the group.
Compost pile examined by Jeremy Ferrell.
Bees from the beehives at Against the Grain.