epaSAN FRANCISCO – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded a total of $30,000 in grants to two student teams Arizona State University to design a new, less expensive solar energy prototype and the development of gasification and biochar retort technologies, a more sustainable approach to agricultural waste.  Both projects are part of EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) program. “These students are coming up with cutting-edge solutions for the most challenging environmental issues facing Arizona, and the world,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Each year, the projects created by student teams surpass our expectations.” The Arizona State University teams will each receive $15,000 for their projects.  The projects funded are: Community-Scale Gasification and Biochar Retort Hubs for Rural Areas: A “Closed Loop” System for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioenergy – The reliance on fossil fuels, chemical agents, and nutrient deposits to draw adequate agricultural yields from marginal soils results in the accumulation of toxins in soils, water, air, and biota. In many developing countries, the resulting wastes are improperly disposed of and/or incinerated, leading to further environmental degradation, and thus magnifying risks to food security and human and ecosystem health. Gasification and biochar retort technologies promise a cost-effective and environmentally-sustainable approach to the management of organic wastes. In response to the need for interdisciplinary studies integrating appropriately-scaled economic, social, and environmental feasibility assessment, the team will develop screening-level metrics to evaluate the role physical, biological, operational, and economic factors of biochar and power co-generation play in advancing the deployment of rural community-scale gasification hubs. Building Integrated Solar Thermal Electricity Generation – This project will investigate a new device for generating electricity from sunlight.  The proposed research will build an experimental prototype and establish: 1) the solar conditions under which the technology generates electricity, 2) thermodynamic efficiency and cost, and 3) the most effective thermoelectric materials.  Additionally, this project will contribute to the education of a diverse team and contribute to public education through presentations, demonstrations, and production of videos explaining the physics and operation of the device. Funding for the P3 projects is divided into two phases. In Phase I, student teams submit a proposal for a project, and if they are selected, they receive $15,000 and compete with other Phase I winners at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C. There, teams compete for Phase II funding of up to $75,000. Since 2004, the P3 Program has provided funding to student teams nationwide, committing over $10 million to cutting-edge, sustainable projects designed by university students.

More information on the 2014 P3 Phase I Projects: http://epa.gov/ncer/2014P3grantees  For more information on the P3 Program: www.epa.gov/ncer/p3/