Catching Sunshine

By Mark Major
Photo courtesy of International Sports Training Camp

When they first began their “green energy” journey, International Sports Training Camp (ISTC) Directors Mark Major and Kara Klaus-Major were intimidated by the task.

With approximately 270 campers and 130 staff members in residence each week, the directors discussed the potential to shrink the camp electricity bill by utilizing green energy strategies.

The Stroudsburg, Pa., overnight sports camp had always strived to be environmentally friendly. Officials at the 500-acre facility had recently welcomed a new green-conscious health center, cooled with geothermal energy.

Campers were always encouraged to recycle, and old materials were often repurposed for new activities. Employees also milled their own wood using trees that had been removed from the property.

Incorporating more green energy to power the camp was the next logical step in their journey.

Extensive Research
The camp began by seeking out renewable-energy options to assist in the long-term planning of summer camp. Wind power was originally considered, but research determined that geographic wind currents were not favorable in the Pocono Mountain region.

Instead, camp leaders turned their attention to solar energy and began to educate themselves on its possibilities for improving operations and boosting property value.

Like travelers immersed in a new culture, the ISTC staff garnered information by attending solar energy seminars and lectures, and doing individual research. The staff scoured websites, studied the Pennsylvania campus, and tracked electric usage.

After a few years of research, ISTC gained a clearer understanding of how energy needs matched available options.

Staff members learned there were many local, state, and federal grants available to assist in solar PV systems, and resources like dsireusa.org helped companies find grants that subsidize installation costs. Knowing they would need some guidance in grant writing, ISTC sought solar panel installation companies that incorporated this into their pricing.

Mission Accomplished
All of the effort involved in applying for grants proved worth it when ISTC qualified for enough funding to pay for 50 percent of the system.

In June 2011, ISTC’s 40-kilowatt solar PV system became a reality. Panels were installed by employees of Power Up, a company that specializes in solar electric systems.

Since the installation, the panels have produced a total of 44,233kw of electricity. ISTC eliminated more than 75,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas that results from human activities and causes global warming and climate change. To put this number in perspective, it is equivalent to:

•  Planting 7.3 acres of pine trees, or 875 tree seedlings
•  Recycling 11.9 tons of waste
•   Removing four homes per year from the energy grid
•  Saving 1,421 propane cylinders from being used for home barbecues
•  Removing seven passenger vans from the road each year
•  Preventing 13.2 tons of coal from being burned.

These statistics caught the attention of local news stations, and in turn, ISTC shared its story and connected with a vast audience. ISTC was one of the first summer camps to power facilities using solar energy.

Apart from the financial and environmental benefits of installing solar panels, Major says it’s more about educating the next generation.

“Here at ISTC, we have always believed in being good stewards of the land,” Major says. “We strive to exist in harmony with our property. By installing solar, we tried to lead by example and show our campers that this is the new normal. Seeing solar power at work here at ISTC will stay with them when they go home.”

The installation of solar panels strikes a chord with both campers and parents—campers embrace the utilization of solar energy, and parents appreciate that their children are able to see green energy in action.

The panels help staff members continue their efforts to educate the next generation about respecting the planet and natural resources.

Mark Major is the director of ISTC, and has been involved in the camping industry for more than 20 years. He is a current board member of the Keystone Counsel of Leadership. His email address is mark@international-sports.com .