Friday, August 10, 2012

School greenhouse grows them tall

Fish and vegetables raised for sale

Express Staff Writer

Brian Formosa explains the workings of a greenhouse/fish-farm complex to a group of sustainability aficionados at the Sage School in Hailey Wednesday. The event was part of an educational component tied to an EPA-funded Hailey Climate Challenge program under way in the valley. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Sage School in Hailey played host to a workshop on solar thermal-heating systems Wednesday.

A greenhouse on the school property, once used by a commercial nursery, was transformed last year into a fish and agriculture operation that could help offset the school's operating expenses.

The workshop was offered as part of the city of Hailey's Environmental Protection Agency-funded Community Climate Challenge program, which has sparked a number of valley-wide efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming.

Brian Formosa, a mechanical engineer, and Billy Mann, of Sagebrush Solar, built and designed the system, with help from Sage School students.

Formosa said the $24,000 solar thermal "drain back" system will not overheat in summer, or freeze in winter, providing room heat as well as hot water for use in fish tanks filled with tilapia, a type of African trout.

Twelve-foot-tall tomato plants have sprung from planting beds in the greenhouse. They are fertilized with fish droppings from the tanks. Herbs grow nearby above tanks that also contain fish-produced fertilizer.

Formosa said the Sage School students are making all the decisions about planting in the greenhouse, and are bringing in $18,000 in revenue from vegetable sales per year.

Twelve people attended the workshop, including some who were recently awarded $2,000 Save-a-Lot program grants by Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle.

Hailey Sustainability Director Mariel Platt said Climate Challenge Save-a-Lot program grant winners are required to use the money to install small-scale renewable energy systems, perhaps similar to the one used at the Sage School.

Tony Evans:

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