New Program Helped Reduce School’s Energy Costs

SNOW HILL — Geared toward two popular fields in Worcester County, the Renewable Energy STEM Academy program at Worcester Technical High School (WTHS) summarized its first year in front of the Board of Education this week.

The five-course program has made big strides in only a few months, according to organizers, including developing industry partnerships and reducing the electric bill at WTHS.

According to Renewable Energy Instructor Ed Stough, the five courses included in the program are Renewable Energy and Green Technology, Solar Photovoltaic, Solar Thermal, Wind and Other Energy Systems, Bio-fuels and Bio-Mass.

“Students enrolled in the Renewable Energy and Green Technology course this spring have been charged with the task of auditing our school to find ways to reduce energy consumption,” wrote Stough in a memo to the board. “They have looked at the different areas of energy usage and given suggestions for cost savings measures.”

That course has been more than just an academic exercise, added Stough, with student suggestions actually leading to a lower energy bill.

“As of right now, we’ve reduced the electric bill in the building by 7.5 percent,” he said. “Without a doubt, if we get done with the recommendations, we’ll hit over 10 percent.”

That translates to a reduction of 5.95 percent in kWh from January through March as well.

WTHS student Luke Warrington shared some of his group’s progress with the board. Because of the program, changes were made to how electronics are powered down as well as how bright lights are in the building.

“The first thing we did was put light restrictors in the classroom,” said Warrington.

The other four courses are in the same “green technology” vein as Renewable Energy but expand the program in other alternative energy directions. Solar Photovoltaic will go into the different kinds of solar power systems that produce electricity while Solar Thermal will explain how heat is generated through solar power.

Wind and Other Energy Systems “covers using wind, geo-thermal, hydro, and other sources to produce electricity,” said Stough. The final course, Bio-fuels and Bio-mass, takes a look at the potential for crops and plants to replace fossil fuels as a source of clean energy.

The success of the program has attracted interest from the alternative energy industry as well as other educators.

“We are pleased that the Renewable Energy program has generated both higher education and industry interest. Worcester Technical High School and Wor-Wic Community College have partnered in an articulation agreement,” Stough told the board. “Del-Tech has also shown an interest in articulation. Salisbury University has asked for our course syllabi and program outline in order to consider starting a Renewable Energy Engineering program at the graduate level.”

Additionally, Paradise Energies, Flexera and Choptank Electric are “on board as industry partners,” according to Stough.

“The nicest thing is we are not going out and selling this. People are calling us,” he said.

According to Stough, WTHS is the first in Maryland to participate in the Renewable Energy STEM Academy at the high school level and is one of the first 10 to do so in the entire country. The early achievements have even, coincidently, caught the eye of a technical high school in Worcester, Mass., which has reached out to form a partnership next year with WTHS.