In the state of Connecticut, the energy crisis affects every person and industry. New England as a region and Connecticut, in particular, rely heavily on nuclear power and oil. There is growing agreement that nuclear power plant construction and oil supplies will dwindle dramatically in the next twenty years. This creates a rather dismal energy future.
In order to deal with these facts, science educators are beginning to reevaluate energy programs, Traditional energy studies have focused on fossil fuels; in particular, oil, coal, and natural gas. Many educators now realize this approach is very short-sighted. An alternative energy project can introduce the important concept of the finite nature of energy and natural resources.
This unit on solar greenhouses meets the following objectives. As an alternative energy project, it: 1) encourages the study of inter-disciplinary subject matter; 2) increases knowledge of small scale technology; 3) stresses the use of a renewable energy source, conservation of energy, and food production; and 4) provides the schools with a socially responsible demonstration project. At the same time, vocational students can be involved with the actual construction of the building. Horticultural students can learn about plant life and food production. Science students can experiment with energy concepts. Urban and rural communities can be exposed to low cost energy conservation.
For the homeowner, an attached solar greenhouse is a popular addition It offers three major benefits: 1) an inexpensive, attractive, bright living space; 2) a heat collector; and 3) a place for growing plants or vegetables. Traditional residential architecture tried to create these aesthetic and practical benefits of solar greenhouses in the form of bay windows, sun rooms and breakfast places. With greater understanding of energy conservation and solar energy, future homes can derive more benefits with less costs through solar greenhouses.
Another important energy issue largely unknown to the public is that the American food system requires massive amounts of fossil fuel energy. One major answer to the question why learn about solar greenhouses” is to provide an alternative solution to this problem.
One hundred years ago, Connecticut was close to being self-sufficient in food production. Today about ninety percent of the state’s food is shipped in from outside the state. To supply the state with that food requires an elaborate energy-intensive system, which requires more energy than is returned as food. Many steps are necessary to get food from the ground to peoples’ tables. In total, the systems needed to produce, transport, process, distribute, and prepare food require about seventeen-and-a-half percent of the national energy budget.
Until less energy-intensive ways of feeding people are explored, a severe energy crisis will also mean a food crisis. For these reasons, the food and heat producing solar greenhouse is an appropriate response to the insure energy situation for educators.