Huntingtown High student Dia Brown shows a scaled down version of her LEED-certified home

Huntingtown High School senior Dia Brown explains the “green” components of a scaled down version of her LEED-certified house.

Huntingtown, MD – An increasing demand for energy amid growing concerns for the environment has drawn the attention of several bright students at Huntingtown High School (HHS). Over 60 students, many of them in advanced placement science classes, participated in the school’s third annual “Energy Expo.” This year’s event was held in the HHS cafeteria. In addition to displays by students, representatives from Solar City, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) and Exelon were on hand to answer students’ questions. Officials from Dominion declined an invitation extended to them to participate.

Science teacher Jamie Rowder, who organized the exposition and assigned the analysis of several types of energy to her students, told “this is a good time” for students to explore the various methods of generating energy. “With a new administration, the return of ‘big oil’ and concerns about what might happen to the Environmental Protection Agency, the kids are concerned with the direction of energy and the environment,” said Rowder.

One of the new exhibits—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)—featured a replica of a house (scaled down) with a “green roof” and solar panels. The aim, said senior Dia Brown, is to create a structure that will be “as self-sufficient as possible.” The green roof consists of small shrubberies. Brown stated additionally utilizing rain barrels “can make your house LEED-certified.” On the negative side, Brown said, “the more [components] you add to it the more expensive it is.” However, creating a home that earns LEED certification will enhance the house’s resale value. Brown said Maryland currently ranks number six among states in LEED certifications. Brown, who started a nonprofit called “Crochet for the Bay,” aspires to be an environmental engineer and is considering enrollment at the University of Vermont after graduating from HHS.

Another new expo display was ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). Students Anya Cramer, Alec Howerton, Kaylee Grenier and Wade Antonielli studied the controversial but intriguing process of generating power that may have had its origins inside the mind of the visionary novelist Jules Verne during the 19th century. Warm surface water is used to generate electricity from an OTEC plant. “Most OTEC plants are located around the equator, in tropical locations,” the students wrote in their exhibit synopsis. Presently, OTEC is still in the research stage. Cramer explained that the OTEC process needs warm water to work properly. If successfully harnessed OTEC has the potential to lessen the use of fossil fuels. On the negative side, OTEC is expensive due to the enormous size of its mid-ocean plants and there are some environmental concerns about the release of the process’ preferred working fluid, ammonia. Cramer, a senior who plans to attend the University of Kentucky, pointed out that there are a limited number of OTEC plants in the world.

Another new energy component the HHS studied was oil sands—heavy oil mixed with sand, clay and water. According to the synopsis presented by HHS students Shaellen Mavor, Alexis Lauer and Casey Ottenwaelder, oil sand reservoirs in Canada and Venezuela “are competitive with conventional oil reservoirs in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.” Mavor, a senior, told that in Canada, production from oil sands has reached one million barrels a day. She explained there were some negatives about the oil sands, not the least of which is the reservoirs’ proximity to bodies of water and the potential for pollution, increases in greenhouse gases and the drilling procedure that is used.

The nonstudents on-hand to answer students’ questions seemed pleased with the level of curiosity. “The kids ask us about how the plant operates,” said Christopher Del Vecchio, an engineer at Exelon’s Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby. Del Vecchio noted HHS students also inquired about radiation levels at the facility.  He noted the plants annual refueling will be coming up soon and he and other engineers will be inspecting various equipment and other components during that process.

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