Our energy efficient greenhouse provides year round indoor growing space for plants as well as a demonstration of how to heat a building using energy from the sun. Plants are grown in the greenhouse for classroom experiments as well as part of a permanent botanical collection for enjoyment and exploration. Public hours will be posted on the greenhouse door.
The south face of the 1,000 square foot greenhouse is composed of triple paned polycarbonate glazing. The east face is glazed with double paned glass. Sunlight enters the greenhouse and provides plants with the energy they require to photosynthesize. Sunlight is also converted into low temperature heat for winter warmth. Minimal glazing on the well insulated back (north) and west walls of the greenhouse reduce heat loss while providing much needed ventilation. To help moderate temperature fluctuations and provide night time heat when the sun is not shining, the concrete floor of the greenhouse acts as a thermal mass, absorbing heat during the day and slowly releasing it at night.
Solar thermal collectors on top of the greenhouse provide another way to heat the structure. Energy from the sun heats a fluid in the solar panels that will then be pumped through the greenhouse floor for radiant heating as well as through plant beds to directly heat soil.
Solar electric (photovoltaic) panels are also to be located on top of the greenhouse to convert sunlight directly into electricity. The electricity generated will provide daytime lighting as well as electrical energy to run fans and motors. GCC has a much larger array of photovoltaics located behind the East building.
These energy systems harvest a renewable, inexhaustible and free source of energy: the sun. They do not burn any fossil fuels – coal, oil or natural gas – and do not release any harmful pollutants or greenhouse gasses (such as CO2) into the atmosphere. They provide us with electricity without contributing to climate change.
The GCC Sustainable Energy Greenhouse was funded by a grant from the US Department of Energy made possible by Congressman John W. Olver and a donation from Don & Sherry Rice. For more information on renewable energy and green initiatives, visit https://www.gcc.mass.edu/sustainability.