Coalfield School Getting Solar Power System - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Coalfield School Getting Solar Power System

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For The State Journal

Mount View High School in Welch is perched on a ridge that's part of an old surface mine. For years, the coal dug out of Thomas Mountain helped meet the needs of an energy-hungry nation. Now the school is tapping into a new energy source – solar power.

Marshall University's Center for Environmental, Geotechnical and Applied Sciences (CEGAS) and the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at Marshall are partnering with the West Virginia Division of Energy (WVDoE) Office of Coalfield Community Development on a project to install a solar panel system at Mount View.

The Mount Hope solar panel project is part of a broader endeavor aimed at demonstrating renewable energy applications on surface-mined properties.

Dr. Tony Szwilski, director of CEGAS, said the goal of the broader effort is to encourage the reuse of West Virginia's surface-mind land, whether through the direct development of renewable energy projects or by growing crops such as switchgrass that are used by the energy industry. That broad effort is being funded with a $400,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), matched with $100,000 from the WVDoE.

The Mount Hope project fits into that effort because the school is located on an old surface mine.

According to George Carico, project coordinator with the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, who assisted the WVDoE in locating a site where solar panels could be installed for demonstrating this type of renewable energy, Mount View's ridge-top location makes it well situated for a solar panel array on its roof.

Carico added that while the project will provide renewable energy to the school in the form of solar energy, its educational aspect is also important."While solar panels have been around for a number of years, most people don't fully understand the various aspects, both positive and negative, of this type of renewable energy. At Mount View, the students, teachers, parents and members of the community will be getting first-hand knowledge. We'll be educating a wide variety of people about this energy resource."

The solar system at Mount View will consist of approximately 22 panels with a total rated output of 5.5 kilowatts, mounted on the school's rooftop, which includes a viewing platform where students, teachers and other interested parties will be able to view the panels up close. The system also will include monitors to evaluate performance, and the results will be incorporated into students' science projects.

Students in the school's Health Sciences and Technology Academy program will use the solar panels to gather data and conduct research about solar energy and ozone levels.

Szwilski said the school project, combined with other projects undertaken by the CEGAS/WVDOE partnership, illustrate the two-pronged approach being taken – to not only evaluate renewable energy resources across West Virginia but also to educate the public about their potential.

"This project and our other ongoing wind and biomass projects with the WVDoE demonstrate how we're taking a progressive role in assessing wind, solar and biomass energy resource potential on surface-mined lands. We're pleased to be a key player in this venture."

The school project is to be paid for with $45,000 from the ARC and $10,000 from the McDowell County Board of Education. The solar panel system is to be installed early this year.


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