Green energy for greenhouse

By: Alana Greenfogel Email
By: Alana Greenfogel Email

It may be 70 degrees outside, but inside part of the Potawatomi Greenhouse in South Bend, it's pushing 90 degrees.

Think about your heat bill at home, and then imagine paying to keep the temperatures up when it's 15 below in January!

Last year, the greenhouse's natural gas bill was about $80,000.

But not this year.

Inside the greenhouse, you'll find computer servers. Notre Dame researches are experimenting with the idea of using heat generated from the computers to warm the greenhouse. This way, the gas bill taxpayers pay will go down, and the heat will have a use.

"The heat's already being generated, but it's being put to a positive use," explains Bob Monroe from Potawatomi Greenhouse.

"When the computer's running, the computer utilizes a lot of electricity and that electricity comes off as heat," says Dr. Paul Brenner from Notre Dame's Center for Research Computing.

When students or faculty use their computers on campus, the data is sent via satellite to the greenhouse. The computers then generate heat, which acts as a supplement to the gas.

"This is a part of the university and the city really partnering to become more creative to use the energy we already have," says Dr. Brenner.

Currently, five computers are up and running. The goal is to have about 50 connected by the fall. And, researchers hope one day to cover the entire bill and even expand to other areas of South Bend.

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