WALSH, Colorado — The Wind for Schools project of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory is churning, having installed 42 Southwest Windpower SkyStream 3.7 turbines so far, with a goal of five new turbines each year for the 11 states already part of the program.
Eventually, 35 states are expected to participate. Enough critical mass, say the researchers, for states and school districts to take on the installations themselves.
Janet Chenoweth, who teaches science to fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders, became a Wind Senator through the KidWind project and is becoming an ambassador for wind-energy curriculum in southeast Colorado.
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter said the school wind turbine projects are an important example of how Colorado is participating in the “New Energy Economy.”
“Educating today’s young people about the benefits and mechanics of renewable energy prepares them for a wealth of future opportunities,” Ritter said.
He said the Wind in Schools program also demonstrates the crucial role rural communities can play.
“It’s a great way to introduce wind energy to communities in a not very threatening, educational way,” said Ian Baring-Gould, senior research supervisor for wind technology deployment at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s National Wind Technology Center. “It allows the community to take a more active role in their energy future.”
It needs to happen because the Department of Energy envisions the United States getting as much as 20 percent of its electricity from wind power by 2030. The Department of Energy expects 500,000 wind-related jobs by 2030 if the 20 percent scenario comes to pass.
The idea is to make the wind turbines points of community pride, especially in rural areas. Wind energy can be a way to keep young adults in town, with the prospects of interesting jobs.
In late January, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Department of Department of Energy’s Wind and Water Power Program announced that five more states had been selected to receive $60,000 each in support of the Wind Powering America’s Wind for Schools Project.
In each state, university students will help install the turbines and deliver lessons to younger students through local Wind Applications Centers.
The new partnerships are: Appalachian State University in North Carolina; James Madison University in Virginia; Northern Arizona University; Pennsylvania State University and the University of Alaska. The original six states are Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Interest in science. Baring-Gould notes that there are universities with huge programs devoted to nuclear energy, but nothing comparable for wind energy. With fewer middle-school students expressing an interest in science, the prospects of there being enough skilled young adults to enter the growing wind-energy field, was looking like “a train wreck,” he said.
So, the idea of Wind Application Centers at land-grant universities was born.
College students would take classes in wind applications, then be assigned to elementary or secondary schools where they would oversee the installations and talk to pupils about wind energy.