The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Wind for Schools Project has been responsible for the installation of more than 70 wind turbines at schools in 11 states, from Alaska to Kansas to Virginia. The Wind For Schools program combines an on-site wind turbine at an elementary or secondary school with technical expertise provided by a Wind Application Center at a state college or university and comprehensive curriculum support. The goal is to bring the wind turbine into the classroom, so to speak, through teacher training, hands-on learning opportunities and interactive wind energy research projects.
In Illinois, the program is part of a larger goal to develop a workforce to support the state’s wind industry. While the state was second only to Texas in new wind power capacity in 2010, its wind resources remain largely untapped. Illinois is not one of the “official” 11 states that receive Department of Energy funding for Wind for Schools. But the state has developed its own affiliate project, with access to a broad array of support services from NREL.
The Illinois Wind for Schools program (ILWFS) is under way with three pilot schools, and the program recently opened the application process for schools interested in participating in its 2012-2013 program. The ILWFS will select three to five middle and/or high schools for intensive support through on-site teacher training and classroom resources.
Partner schools will receive experimental model wind turbines and equipment with which to build and test them. They will also receive a pack of experimental weather balloons, a model wind tunnel and a comprehensive wind energy curriculum, including customized lab activities. In the fall, the ILWFS staff will install scientific weather instrumentation at each partner school, so that teachers and students can access weather data over the internet.