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Landscape Architecture Students Inaugurate the P.O.W.E.R. project

Biogasifier photo

Directed by Assistant Professor David Hill, students in spring 2012 Graduate Landscape Architecture Program focused their final design studio on the P.O.W.E.R. project [Provocative Opportunities Within Energy Regimes], an investigation into landscapes of energy and an exploration in the potential design opportunities that exist within them.

The students initiated the P.O.W.E.R. project by becoming intimately familiar with how energy is created and distributed, strategically concentrating on established and innovative energy systems within the state of Alabama.  Attempting to understand not only the mechanics of the system but also the more distant cultural and ecological landscape implications of each energy regime, students studied coal, gas, hydro, nuclear, wind, solar, biogas and wave power.

As part of the process, the students toured a handful of energy generation and distribution systems, closely listening to the engineers and plant managers at each site.  They first explored the Auburn University Heating and Cooling Energy Plant, where they were introduced to the campus wide natural gas heating system and massive cooling towers.  Next, students studied the complex infrastructure related to electricity distribution by touring an Alabama Power district substation. At two different hydroelectric dams, Georgia Power’s Goat Rock Dam (circa 1915) and Alabama Power’s Lake Martin Dam (circa 1923), students were able to closely examine how kinetic energy is transformed into a flow of electrons as well as understand the complex political and ecological impacts of the water levels on each side of the dam.  Back at Auburn University’s Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts, the students were then introduced to emerging renewable biomass technologies and were able to watch the Mobile BioMass Gasifier in action.  Finally, the students were able to explore Southern Power’s Plant Franklin (circa 2002), which is a natural gas-fueled, combined-cycle electric generating plant which is capable of producing 1,185 megawatts.

The projects developed by the students  grappled with how landscape architects and designers are able to respond to the varied and complex issues of energy.  Two engineers from the Southern Company, America's largest generators of electricity and the parent firm of Alabama Power, participated in the final review of student work.  The  student projects set the stage for a much larger study to come.

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