Sustainability & Energy Efficiency

Constellation Grant Awarded to Allegheny College’s Greenhouse Project

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As part of our EEnergy to EducateSM grant program, Constellation awarded Allegheny College in Pennsylvania a $37,500 grant. This will be used to heat a small-scale greenhouse using energy that would otherwise be wasted.

Our grant program supports hands-on projects that inspire students to think differently about energy. The program is designed to enhance their understanding of science and technology. The greenhouse project will use innovative heating and photovoltaic (solar) systems to maintain a microclimate within the greenhouse for year-round food production.

In 2016, we awarded more than $380,000 in funding to support 17 projects that focus on energy science, technology and education for students in grades 6-12 and college. Each project was required to engage 100 or more students. It also needed to align with one of three new innovation-oriented themes: energy in transportation, backyard energy generation or zero energy waste.

The EEnergy to EducateSM grant program has provided more than $2.6 million in funding for 85 student projects. The grant has reached more than 100,000 students since its inception in 2010. You can view a complete list of projects here. This list includes projects such as:

  • Building a cost-effective home that is energy efficient and sustainable
  • Implementing “green” design labs in New York City schools
  • Installing solar panels
  • Constructing fuel cells
  • Exploring electric vehicle technology

The Greenhouse Project

The roof of the greenhouse will be made using a novel photovoltaic (PV) technology—luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs)—that can generate power from “wasted” light. The PV panels capture and convert unusable wavelengths into power while allowing photosynthetically active light to reach the plants below.

LSCs are high-tech silicon nanoparticles that also help researchers bring the dream of windows that can efficiently collect solar energy one step closer to reality. When light shines through the surface of LSCs, small solar cells along the edges capture some of the energy. Windows built with LSCs (photovoltaic windows) are likely to increase the amount of a building’s exterior that is suitable for energy generation.

Since photovoltaic cells are hidden within LSC-based window frames, they do not affect building aesthetics. This can be a crucial aspect, especially in metropolitan areas, for usage.

Another environmental technology—recycling waste vegetable oil (WVO)—will be employed to power the greenhouse’s heating system. The WVO will come from campus dining facilities. With often minimal change, most furnaces and boilers designed to burn heating oil can be cheaply made to burn filtered, preheated WVO. Instead of ending up in a landfill, the cooking oil can now be reused to keep plants warm.

Eric Pallant, an Allegheny professor of sustainability, said the grant will allow the college’s environmental science department to “construct a cutting-edge greenhouse at the vital juncture or sustainable energy and sustainable agriculture.”

The school’s sustainability coordinator Kelly Boulton expressed her delight that the greenhouse will extend the growing season and help to meet campus food needs. She also praised the project’s promise to “teach thousands of students, visitors and community members about energy resources derived from recoverable waste.” 

Students will monitor and assess energy consumption in a state-of-the-art facility that will benefit the campus and community at large, according to a press release from the college. Construction of the greenhouse is slated to begin in May.

We consider education and creativity vital to our efforts to develop tomorrow’s emerging energy solutions. Our EEnergy to EducateSM grants are designed to build science, math and technology skills that students will need to be successful in the real world. Learn more about our grant by visiting

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