People want wind power, but many cringe at the thought of tarnishing their beloved landscapes with giant turbines. A perception shift is under way at several American schools and colleges, where youngsters are learning to embrace the advantages of wind power.
A report on the projected growth of the wind industry released in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) examined the costs, impacts, and challenges of generating 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind power by 2030. The report highlighted the needs for overcoming public opposition, mostly due to aesthetics, and for developing a skilled workforce. To that end, 11 states are participating in the Wind for Schools project, which enables elementary or secondary school students to build and maintain small wind turbines with the help of nearby college students and professors.
The DOE launched the Wind for Schools project in 2005 as part of the Wind Powering America initiative. The pilot project in Colorado involving nine rural schools will receive a Wirth Chair Sustainability Award from the University of Colorado Denver this month. Several other recipients will be celebrated at a luncheon this month in Denver. The award is reserved for those dedicated to ensuring a sustainable future by educating others.
The Wind for Schools program provides training for science teachers at the host schools as well as curriculum and educational kits for the students. They participate in hands-on activities, record data, and become familiar with their small turbines. The turbines may also serve as inspiration for science fair projects. A Wind Application Center (WAC) is set up in conjunction with each host school, and college students from the WAC work as consultants who help with technical aspects and general operation of the turbines. College students gain experience in wind energy applications through their work with the turbines and their interactions with the younger students, science teachers, and professors.