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School District Harnesses Wind to Teach Students

April 2, 2010 - 2:40pm


A school district in Walsh, Colo., a rural community in the breezy southeastern part of the state, is saving money with its new wind turbine, but the real payoff comes this fall.

Teachers are looking forward to using the new 2.4-kilowatt wind turbine that sits behind the high school as a tool to teach students about wind energy technology.

“It’s always more exciting for kids to work with something real, instead of something that is hypothetical,” says Kyle Hebberd, superintendent of Walsh School District. “Hopefully, the new turbine will connect better with the kids.”

Making the turbine part of classroom activities gives the students hands-on experience and teaches them about the benefits of renewable energy, Kyle says.

Teachers from both the elementary and high school—which consist of about 150 students total—expect to incorporate the turbine into the math and science curriculum this upcoming school year.  A group of them have already attended renewable energy courses to learn more about wind technology.  Kyle also wants to create a Web site that broadcasts the turbine’s energy savings and usage data so students can easily view it in the classroom. 

The project may also encourage interest in the wind power field, which is growing in this part of the state.

“Our high school principal is excited about the vocational aspect,” says Kyle, mentioning the 162-megawatt Colorado Green Wind Power Project located 50 miles north of the high school that employs about 20 people in the area.

As part of the Department of Energy’s Wind for Schools Program, five schools in Colorado—four on the Eastern Plains and one in northern Colorado—were chosen to receive wind turbines.  In December, the Walsh school district became the first to erect one.

The program is a joint effort of the Governor’s Energy Office, DOE, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Colorado State University. The unit, which currently helps power two maintenance buildings associated with the schools, has already produced over 500 kilowatt hours of energy.