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WVa student urges county school board to use solar energy

May 4, 2019

WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) — As Ohio County Schools officials prepare to spend $76 million on property improvements, Wheeling Park High School freshman Ben Weimer wondered why there are no plans for solar panel installation on the flat WPHS roof.

Weimer — who has an interest in engineering — took his concern recently to Assistant Principal Meredith Dailer, who had him speak with Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones.

Weimer addressed school board members Tuesday on what value alternative energy sources could have to Ohio County Schools, and he has been appointed as a student representative to the school district’s bond committee.

Weimer told board members he always has noticed how much black smoke goes into the atmosphere every time a dump truck or tractor-trailer shifts gears, and this is similar to what power plants do when they spew out carbon dioxide.

“I can’t see how all that cannot have an effect on our planet,” Weimer said.

He said he plays on a soccer team that recently made a trip to Europe, and he noticed that in Germany and Austria they are “very progressive” with green technology. Solar panels and wind technology can be found on most properties.

“I saw these things established in these houses, and it makes a lot of sense,” Weimer said. “These people are saving a lot of money every single month and keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. That’s something I would like to see happen here, if possible.”

Weimer said he does much research online about the topic, and there are many solar panel companies in West Virginia even though the state isn’t typically thought of as being suitable for solar energy.

“It gives me hope, and it makes me think, ‘Why can’t our school have that?’” Weimer asked.

The WPHS roof gets plenty of sunlight, especially in the summer, he said. Although less energy is used during the summer, this energy is collected and put into the electrical grid. American Electric Power would be required under law to purchase the unused energy.

“We would still be making all that money by sending our electricity back into the grid, and that’s something that could really free up money for something the school really wants to do. . It really makes financial sense and environmental sense to have these things installed.”

Weimer said his research has determined it would cost between $400,000 and $500,000 for the school district to install a solar system at WPHS that could provide half the school’s energy consumption. There also are companies that will install the panels for free, and charge the school district a utility bill at a rate significantly less than the conventional power bill.

“Renewable energy is coming to America. It’s in other parts of the world, and it has to come,” Weimer said. “What we’re doing to the environment cannot be sustainably continued using these fossil fuels. They can’t be responsibly used for many years to come. Eventually, we’re going to have to switch to another cleaner power source that’s more efficient, and would be a benefactor to all our lives.”

Ohio County Schools has contracted with CMTA of Prospect, Kentucky to enact energy-savings measures throughout the school system as part of the school district’s property improvement projects, and the company has projected a cost savings of $6.35 million to Ohio County Schools over the next 15 years as a result of these efforts.

CMTA has suggested geo-thermal energy systems for many of the school district’s buildings. Jones said the school district would discuss with CMTA the potential for using solar panels at WPHS.


Information from: The Intelligencer, http://www.theintelligencer.net