Maurer wants shock to the system

DeWayne Bartels
Metamora Schools Superintendent Ken Maurer is shown here at a Metamora Village Board meeting asking for the village's help in getting a federal grant to pay for more green energy projects at Metamora High School.

When Ken Maurer stood before the Metamora Village Board May 18 seeking their assistance in an expansion of the school district’s renewable energy program the timing could only be described as ironic.

Less than a half-hour before Maurer, superintendent of Metamora Schools, stood to speak the village was in the grip of a broad power outage.

Maurer got what he needed from the village board in the form of a letter to pursue more renewable energy projects at the school.

That was the easy part.

Maurer is seeking $250,000 of a $500,000 grant of monies from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission is administering the requests in this area for the state.

Maurer said the grants are for “shovel-ready” projects. And, Maurer said, Metamora High School is ready to go.

“If we get the money we can have our project up and running in 90 days,” Maurer said.

Dave Driscoll, head of maintenance and energy project manager for Metamora High School, said the project the school has in mind consists of a solar energy project which would generate 27.5 kilowatts of power.

“With this money we could put up 112 solar panels,” Driscoll said.  

The promise

But, expansion of renewable energy at the school depends on federal help.

Maurer said the president has made renewable energy a pillar of his administration, but said more than talk is required to make renewable energy a reality.

Maurer said it is going to take federal funding.

“Stimulus money has been hard to find and hard to get,” Maurer said.

Obama has stressed leaders for more than three decades have talked about dealing with America’s dependence on foreign oil.  

Obama said his energy bill will “spur” the development of low carbon energy sources including wind, solar, and geothermal power.

“This legislation will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy ... We cannot be afraid of the future. And we must not be prisoners of the past. Don’t believe the misinformation out there that suggests there is somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and economic growth. It’s just not true,” Obama said.  

The wish

Maurer said if Obama is going to see his wish fulfilled the feds have to pony up more money for those entities like Metamora High School willing to embrace the new technology.

Maurer said cash-strapped schools cannot afford to enter the renewable energy market on their own.

“This kind of project provides cost-savings and educational opportunities,” Maurer said.

“Our advanced physics and calculus classes worked on our proposal to the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission. The kids even found some mistakes we made.”

Maurer said the school’s past foray into renewable energy has shown it is a viable energy avenue.

Driscoll said the school received a $10,000  state grant in the past and with it erected a solar energy array of six panels generating 1,080 watts of power when the sun is out.

“Whatever electricity it generated we use,” Driscoll said.

On the baseball field there is another solar panel array powering the concession stand the rest rooms and the field lights.

“When the electricity is not being used it is pushed back on the power grid and results in a small cost savings for us,” Driscoll said.

The school also has a wind turbine on the roof.

It generates a maximum of 1,200 watts of power when winds are 20 to 25 mph.

That electricity goes into the building for use.

The school also has a solar-thermal array generating the power to heat the school’s hot water heaters.

That unit produces 300,000 BTUs of heat a day.

“That unit cannot keep up with our hot water demand when the kitchen is in use. But, other than that it provides all our hot water needs,” Driscoll said.

“I’m sure no one else around here in education has the renewable energy array we have.”

Maurer said the school has been pro-active in going after grants for renewable energy projects.

“But grant opportunities are few. We need help to further embrace renewable energy,” Maurer said.