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Golf Course Class Room, Anerobic Disgestors Get Small

Posted by | August 25, 2010

New WSU Course Fits Academic Needs to a Tee

Palouse Ridge Golf Course
Palouse Ridge Golf Course

WSU’s newest academic facility features the largest state-of-the-science classroom and laboratory on campus — 315 acres large to be exact. It also has 18 holes and a pro shop.

Palouse Ridge Golf Club, nestled among the rolling hills of the Palouse Prairie in eastern Washington, was designed by golf course architect John Harbottle III and already has won accolades from the golf media around the nation. Completed in August 2008, it was named second “Best New Course” by both Golf Digest and Golfweek magazines in 2009. Both publications praised the university course’s use of the existing landscape to create an “old school, glitz free” playing experience.

All true, says course superintendent Todd Lupkes. But, he emphasizes, the primary mission for the new course is academic, teaching and research.

“The thing that’s different about Palouse Ridge isn’t the construction or location, it’s that Palouse Ridge is not managed like any other golf course,” he said. “From the beginning, we’ve included language about our academic mission and we hired people to meet those goals. This is a classroom first, and then in addition to that we run a championship 18-hole golf course.”

WSU has long been a leader in training turf grass scientists. Its turf grass program is 40 years old; the majority of course superintendents in Washington and the Pacific Northwest are WSU graduates. It boasts one of the largest enrollments among agriculture majors at the university and is growing. Palouse Ridge now provides that margin of excellence the program needed to grow from good to great.

Professors from a variety of areas use the course for their classes. Students in Soils 441 are studying the factors involved in fertilizer selection and application. Their counterparts in the Agricultural Technology Management classes focus on the irrigation and hydraulic equipment and how it works. Agronomy students use the course to identify and sample weeds and other plants, and landscape architecture students study the course to develop solutions to design challenges on the property.

Those uses are in addition to more traditional uses by the WSU men and women’s golf teams and students learning to play golf in physical education courses. All told, literally hundreds of WSU students spend some time at Palouse Ridge as part of their course work.

For more information about Palouse Ridge Golf Course, please visit their Web site: http://palouseridge.wsu.edu/.

Digesters Make Energy, Fertilizer and Cut Waste

Chad Kruger and Lynne Carpenter-Boggs with prototype for a small-size anaerobic digester. (Photo by Tim Marsh, WSU Today)
Chad Kruger and Lynne Carpenter-Boggs with prototype for a small-size anaerobic digester. (Photo by Tim Marsh, WSU Today)

Small changes can make a big difference, and that’s the idea behind a small-size anaerobic digester that WSU researcher Chad Kruger presented to a group of congressional staffers visiting the WSU Pullman campus earlier this month.

It takes the idea of composting potato peels and eggshells one step further. According to Kruger, a digester could theoretically be installed under your kitchen sink just like an appliance. You would scrape table scraps into the disposal as usual, but instead of being shipped out to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, the waste would be converted into energy to power your hot water heater or stove.

The other output would be high-quality organic fertilizer that could go back into your garden.

For an investment of around $500, you’d be saving energy, reducing waste and creating a nutrient-rich soil amendment.

“This is one of the most efficient ways you can capture energy on a small scale,” said Kruger, who is interim director of WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Anaerobic digesters may have been around for 3,000 years and are very popular in energy-hungry China, Kruger said. But, according to Kruger’s colleague, researcher Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, existing small-scale digester designs have never been reliable enough enough for mainstream use in the United States.

In China, where millions of digesters are in use, serious design flaws lead to a 50 percent failure rate within two years, Kruger said. In 2005, Zhiwu Wang, a graduate student in biological systems engineering with Professsor Shulin Chen, began working to design a new reactor that solves most reliability problems with existing digesters.

Wang’s design, Kruger said, solved most of seven problems. The remaining challenge is heat retention. In large-scale anaerobic digesters, such as those being used in dairy farms, “wasted heat” is recycled to the reactor. But in small-scale systems that isn’t economically feasible. Possible solutions, Kruger said, include capturing ambient heat from a greenhouse or selecting a microbial mix that performs at lower temperatures.

Two of the small-scale anaerobic digester prototypes are being beta tested by local small-scale farmers, one north of Spokane and one near Okanagan. These farmers are looking for a renewable alternative to liquid propane as a source of energy. Once we get feedback from the farmers, he said, the next step is commercialization.

By Hope Belli Tinney, WSU Today

For more information, please visit http://bit.ly/dslc52.