EPA scientists promote sustainability; build prototype solar-powered air quality measurement system
Posted: March 14, 2013
Soon you will be able to lounge on a bench in a public setting and use your smart phone to get real-time data on the air quality around you. It’s all part of a project being co-led by EPA scientists Ronald Williams and Dr. Gayle Hagler.
The Village Green project is a new effort by EPA researchers to develop next-generation air pollution sensor systems designed to test low-cost sustainable technologies for measuring air quality, and to engage the public on environmental issues by providing real-time data on air quality.
The scientists are developing a prototype solar-powered air quality measurement system with wireless communications for transmitting real-time data to a web platform. The Village Green monitor will essentially be a park bench with solar panels. Air quality monitoring sensors contained within the bench and controlled by sophisticated computer programs will enable for near-instantaneous collection and reporting of environmental data to a publically-available website.
The prototype monitoring system is expected to be fully operational in early 2013. EPA is working closely with interested community partners in the Research Triangle Park, N.C. area who have expressed a desire to host the educational monitoring system. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between EPA and the community partner is being developed in support of the project.
“The local potential community partners are very excited about this potential collaboration,” Williams said. “No other prototype of this nature exists in the world and its value for environmental education and public awareness of emerging technologies should be extensive.” It is anticipated that a joint ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the collaboration will occur in early spring 2013.
This monitoring system should require minimal labor to operate, unlike Federal Reference Method (FRM) monitors which must be looked in on once a week if not every day.
“The devices incorporated into the prototype monitoring system have the potential to operate independently for periods up to 90 days unattended and to communicate wirelessly in real-time,” Williams said. EPA scientists will be able to monitor the daily operation of the system and the data it is collecting from their offices via the internet, thus saving both time and resources.
“The monitoring system will run on an extremely low amount of power – just 30 watts,” Williams added. “A typical hair-dryer runs on 1500 watts. The monitor will also be operated with 100 percent solar power, making it a great example of sustainability.”
A Quick Response (QR) smartphone-scannable barcode and a web address will be located on display panels on the bench housing the monitor. This will allow the public to have immediate, continuous access to current environmental conditions.
Data gathered by the monitoring system will initially go to a demonstration website operated by an EPA contractor. In spring 2013, this website will be transition to an EPA website. The environmental data being reported will represent only local air quality conditions at the host site and will not be associated with regulatory-based monitoring.
“EPA has a lot of expertise working with communities and sharing environmental data,” Williams said. “If the project is successful and useful, it can be duplicated in other places.”
And why is it called the “Village Green?”
“In historic New England towns, a village green is a public green space in the center of town where people gather for recreation and community events,” explained Gayle Hagler, EPA co-lead for the project. “With the Village Green project, we are designing an air monitoring system that would fit well in these types of public environments, challenging ourselves to devise a system that is attractive, low power, low maintenance, rugged, and engages community members.”
Learn more about the Village Green Project on EPA’s Greenversations blog:
Welcome to the Village Green Project! (blog)
Village Green Project & Use of Sustainable Energy (blog)
The Palm-Sized Wonder that Brings Life to Village Green (blog)
Village Green Project: What's in our Air? (blog)
The Village Green Project: An Opportunity for STEM Enrichment (blog)