Urban farm center introduces sustainability systems
Growing Power Inc. will host a celebration, dedication and media conference April 22, 2010 to demonstrate two new sustainability systems at its urban farm headquarters at 5500 W. Silver Spring Drive.
To save energy on heating its greenhouses, Growing Power has installed a 10.7- kilowatt array of solar-electric panels stretching 80 feet along the front of its building.
To save treated city water and reduce stormwater runoff from its greenhouses, Growing Power has also installed an 18,000-gallon rainwater catchment system. Rain that once poured off the greenhouses and added to stormwater management problems is now being captured and used to raise fish in Growing Power’s aquaponics systems and to water plants in its vegetable production program.
The solar energy project was funded by a grant from WE Energies. The stormwater catchment project was funded by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, which is responsible for managing both sanitary sewage and stormwater throughout the Milwaukee watershed.
“We wanted to make both these projects work for us in every way they could,” said Will Allen, Growing Power’s founder and CEO. “So, the solar panels are not just mounted on the roof, where they would have shaded our No. 1 greenhouse too much anyway. Instead, we built a pergola along the front of the greenhouse, and the panels will serve as a sunshade for a new sidewalk market area.
“Likewise, we could have made the water catchment just a cistern for storing water for irrigation, but instead we created a recirculating system that will allow us to actually grow fish in the cistern, then pump the water inside to be bio-filtered through beds of watercress.
“We try to make every cubic foot productive, whether it’s on the ground, above the ground or below the ground.”
The indoor part of the water catchment system is intended to become home to some 8,000 lake perch, Milwaukee’s fish fry favorite. The outdoor tank is slated to receive up to 10,000 rainbow trout, a first for Growing Power. About 100,000 perch and tilapia are already swimming in Growing Power’s existing aquaponics systems, which also use natural biological filtration to grow both vegetables and fish in the same recirculating water – fish enrich the water with nitrates; plants use the nitrates for growth; and clean water is returned to the fish.
All these systems, new and old, of course demand some electricity to power pumps to keep the water circulating – and some of that power will now be supplied by the sun. Working together, the solar and rainwater systems will produce valuable energy in the form of food from resources that come free and renewably from the environment.
The dedication event will feature demonstrations of the two new systems, free tastings of the foods they help produce and general tours of the Growing Power facilities.