Dr. Ed Snyder, chair of the Institute of Environmental and Physical Sciences and professor of environmental studies at Shepherd University, helps a student.
Ed Snyder, PhD, the 2011 West Virginia professor of the year, teaches geology at Shepherd University and chairs the school’sInstitute. Snyder works with students at the school’s Renewable Energy Demonstration Site, or RED Zone, and in the classroom.
Snyder’s Environmental science students will take the experiments they conduct on models in the classroom outside to the RED Zone, where they can apply the concepts they learn to the school’s 30-foot turbine, which is capable of producing enough power to run a well designed, energy efficient 1,200 square foot home.
“This is our Skystream wind turbine; this is about almost two kilowatts worth of generation at peak generation,” Snyder told a group of students gathered around the turbine, which had been lowered to the ground.
The 100 by 120-foot RED Zone also houses several photovoltaicsolar panels that produce electricity from light. These panels allow students to conduct experiments.
The RED zone is off the power grid meaning it uses only the energy produced by solar panels that are mounted on a small barn.
Students working here get practical experience on the turbine and solar panels as well as in biodiesel fuel production and sustainable gardening.
Snyder said the RED zone inspires students to become entrepreneurs.
“We’re seeing agriculture, we’re seeing small farms, we’re seeing organic farms, we’re seeing CSA, community supported agriculture, students getting involved, renting their own land, leasing their own land, developing their own CSA’s to make an income,” Snyder said.
Some students also get internships with local companies like Mountain View Solar and Wind which is based in Berkeley Spring.
“Some of them contemplating starting their own companies and becoming solar installers whether its photovoltaic’s, or solar thermal hot water systems, geothermal systems or small scale wind systems,” Snyder said.
Some Shepherd students who graduate from the program find jobs with local alternative energy companies. That’s what Jay Smith did. He is a lead installer at Mountain View Solar and Wind based in Berkeley Springs. Smith considers it a good career choice because he believes renewable energy has a promising future.
“Green is in and we’ve got to do something about climate change, we’ve got to do something about our carbon footprints and this was kind of the way I wanted to go because I was always really kind of a hands on technical kind of person and always had an interest in solar electric and renewable energy system,” Smith said.
Many students who are pursuing the study of environmental science at Shepherd do so with the hope that what they’re learning in the RED zone will lead to a challenging career and a more sustainable future for the world.
“I’m really hopeful,” Jennifer Siler said. “I think this kind of moving towards a greener future has really taken off in the last ten years and it kind of started as a fad but I think people really now are starting to see that, you know especially with hiking oil prices, that it really is something that we need to look at.”
Student Tom Linder said he’s always been interested in what goes on in nature and the courses offered at Shepherd seem to fit into that interest.
“And it’s the stuff that was important to me and the stuff that’s important and the direction that society is kind of going now and where we need to go in order to really improve as a nation and as a world and in different social and just scientific new greenways, everything,” Linder said.
There are about 140 students majoring in environmental science at Shepherd and that number is expected to grow.
Snyder says future changes in the program will include expanding into environmental civics and geographic information systems as well as adding more classes in environmental sustainability.