MERRILLVILLE | If the Merrillville Community School Corp. wins a grant from the Indiana Office of Energy Development, it will be the first school district in the region to construct a wind turbine at its high school, creating projects on renewable energy sources for students and job opportunities for local tradesmen.
Merrillville Superintendent Tony Lux said the grant can "provide educational projects for students, reduce the district's carbon footprint and will be highly visible to the community."
The school district has partnered with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 697, Ironworkers Local 395, Roofers Local 26, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Millwrights and the town of Merrillville's municipal government. It submitted a grant request for $325,000. The district should have an answer by year's end.
The district has pledged $83,500 to the project. In addition, the partners and area businesses have committed $84,000 of in-kind contributions of time, equipment and materials. The grant would spark an investment of more than $167,000.
The project includes installing a 50-kilowatt wind turbine and about 15 kilowatts of solar panels at Merrillville High School. Installation would be integrated into the curriculum in the building trades, physics, chemistry, economics and AutoCAD programs and adult education programs at the high school. Installations will provide job training opportunities for local tradesmen.
The wind turbine and solar panels should save the district an estimated $762,000 over 30 years while offsetting 3,000 tons of carbon, equivalent to 9.5 million automobiles traveled, or the equivalent of planting 118,000 trees.
Physics teacher Bruce Curme, electronics teacher Rick Hurey, building trades instructor Bob Mackoviak and Environmental Club sponsor Chuck Gleason helped write the grant application.
Curme said he is excited about having a real generator that students can see and determine how much power it is producing, and using equations to determine solar panel efficiency.
Ryan Reithel, business representative for IBEW Local 697, said solar panel technology was used on its new building at 7200 Mississippi St. in Merrillville and for a project at Merrillville Town Hall through a state grant.
"This will be our third project and it's giving the local tradesmen experience in this technology," Reithel said. "It's a unique grant, allowing all of us to work together as a community for a common cause."