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ATLANTA — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded two universities in Georgia with the People, Prosperity, and Planet (P3) award Thursday. Nationally the grants were awarded to 42 teams of college and university students. The teams will design innovative solutions to sustainable challenges in the developed and developing world.
Columbus State University was one of the two Georgia universities to win an award, garnering $14,559 to create an economic model to estimate the dollar value of different configurations of algal treatment systems.
The research – being conducted by CSU students in business and environmental sciences courses – will produce realistic financial estimates to evaluate the cost-benefits of using algae to treat wastewater and create biofuel. “A thorough sensitivity analysis of the costs and benefits of algal treatment will enable us to identify economic challenges that stand in the way of wide-spread use of this promising technology,” said the proposal, which will be guided by Troy Keller, associate professor of environmental science, and Andres Jauregui, assistant professor of economics.
Former P3 teams awarded these EPA grants have used their winning ideas to form small businesses and non-profit organizations. Environmental Fuel Research, a 2008 P3 winner from Drexel University, incorporated their grease waste-trap biofuel technology into a business enterprise and won a $100,000 EPA Small Business Innovation Research Phase I award this year. This woman-owned startup, headquartered in a historically underutilized business (HUB) zone to encourage economic development, has the potential to revolutionize domestic biodiesel capacity in the United States.
In addition to Columbus State University, the 2014-2015 school year awardees included a project from Southern Polytechnic State University (now Kennesaw State University) called “Achieving increased photovoltaic panel energy collection with cell-strings that track the sun.”
Since 2004, the P3 Program has provided funding to student teams in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, committing over $10 million to cutting-edge, sustainable projects designed by university students. Projects from this year’s teams include a new device for generating electricity from sunlight that could be used on exterior walls of buildings; extending the growing season for farmers by heating greenhouses with biomass; and reducing diesel emissions for vehicles while lowering costs and improving fuel economy.
Funding for the P3 projects is divided into two phases. In the first phase, student teams submit a proposal for a project, and if they are selected, they compete with other Phase I winners at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C. At the Expo, teams compete for Phase II funding of up to $75,000. This is the 11th year for the EPA P3 Program.