Solar-powered classroom comes to the U.S. at Apple Ridge Farm location

COPPER HILL (WSLS 10) - Kids in Virginia will be the only students in the United States to have a unique learning opportunity. The EBase classroom at Apple Ridge Farm officially opens on Friday. Organizers said there are currently only three other classrooms like it in the world, two in India and one in Antarctica. The project uses a retrofitted box car to teach children about sustainable energy.

For 35 years Apple Ridge Farm, a non-profit organization, has provided an environmental education and camping experience for youth, many who are from Roanoke's inner-city neighborhoods and public-housing projects.

"We want to make sure our kids get the best information they can to try to make the important decisions that they can going forward, to maximize the quality of their life," said Peter Lewis, the founder of Apple Ridge Farm.

The non-profit partnered with AkzoNobel, a global paints and coatings company, to teach students about solar and wind power.

"We are completely reliant on solar power and wind power that comes in and the energy is stored in the batteries, which then powers everything in here" said James Bray, who works for AkzoNobel.

In addition to being the only one of its kind in North America, Bray said the EBase location in Copper Hill is also the only one to be built in an old rail car, which was donated by the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

Bray said it took nearly for years, more than 2,000 volunteer hours and close to $100,000 in renovations to bring the 99-year-old box car back to life. By using tools such as the 18 solar panels and wind turbine at the site, they hope students learn about energy and efficiency.

"We run it 71 degrees year round" said Bray. "We run all the lights, nine laptops connected to the internet and three motion cameras that capture all the wonderful wildlife here."

Organizers hope the mix of antiquity and ingenuity being used at the EBase site in Virginia becomes an effective teaching tool for future generations.