From Staff Reports
GRANTSVILLE — The Maryland Salem Children’s Trust will become the first school in the state to power its operations through a combination of wind and solar energy, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus dollars.
The facility will receive $27,400 to install solar panels and a wind turbine, according to an announcement by USDA Rural Development state director Jack Tarburton. It’s already equipped with a geothermal heating system and skylights to cut down on the use of artificial lighting, features included when the school’s new building was completed in 2006.
The cost of the turbine and solar panels is about $50,000. In addition to the USDA grant, the Maryland Energy Administration is giving $9,875 toward the project, and the CarMax Foundation and private donors have contributed money to cover the Salem school’s $12,975 portion of the bill.
Todd Mechem, executive director of the Salem Children’s Trust, said the plan is to continue installing additional solar panels and wind turbines in phases, as funding becomes available. For the first phase, the solar panels have already been installed, and the wind turbine should go up sometime in early April.
“We’d eventually like to get the building completely energy-independent,” Mechem said. “The goal is partly to save on costs, but also partly built into the Salem philosophy. Part of that philosophy is to be as friendly to the environment as possible.”
Mechem said the project presents some valuable educational opportunities. Students will gather data and work with the project team to develop plans for the next phase of solar panel and wind turbine installations.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to be part of something unique and to bring attention to the great things being done in nonpublic schools and DHR-licensed programs throughout the state,” Mechem said.
He credited engineering Professor Oguz Soysal and the students of Frostburg State University, Larry Cantrell of AES Warrior Run and Betsy Delozier of Big D Electric for playing significant roles in the development of the project.
The Maryland Salem Children’s Trust is a nonprofit faith-based organization, licensed by the state Department of Human Resources, which provides services and education to children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned.
USDA Rural Development funds more than 40 programs that support agriculture, business opportunities, homeownership, home repair, rental housing, broadband technology, public safety, health care, education, community facilities (such as libraries, schools and day care centers) and energy-related projects.