Teaching about energy a breeze

2010-02-24T05:05:00Z Teaching about energy a breezeCYNDY COLE Sun Staff Reporter Arizona Daily Sun
February 24, 2010 5:05 am  • 

Much like Flagstaff high school students have the option of learning carpentry or mechanics, some northern Arizona schools may be adding courses in wind energy.

Northern Arizona University has won a $60,000 Department of Energy grant to host programs aimed at getting K-12 schools across the state outfitted with wind turbines.

Students in schools across rural Arizona would learn about wind power and collect data, and engineering students at NAU would be responsible for helping them get permits, and install turbines, and for troubleshooting any problems.

The plan hinges on fundraising at the schools to buy the turbines and perhaps labor donated by parents or friends of schools, to cover total costs estimated at $15,000 to $25,000.

"Obviously, in Arizona wind's growing. So we're going to talk to the developers. We're going to talk to the utilities," said Karin Wadsack, who is slated to be the state facilitator, and is an engineer out of NAU.

Southwest Windpower is offering to pay for the electricity generated by turbines installed at rural schools, as an incentive.

Another option would be to install wind-measuring equipment in some schools with less-than-stellar wind, to accomplish data collection that could be used in classrooms.

Orme School has done this, adding a wind-measuring tower borrowed from NAU to gather wind shear and wind power.

The students are supposed to calculate the economic feasibility of installing a wind turbine.

In the larger picture, the Energy Department is proposing wind generation meet 20 percent of the country's electricity demand by 2030, and wants to train a workforce to build that.

Began in Colorado, more than 25 states have schools added wind turbines and related courses.

Brian Locke, a career technical education instructor for Flagstaff Unified School District, calls this exciting.

"None of FUSD, I believe, has any green energy programs," he said.

Today, he teaches students about combustion engines.

But recently, they've been asking him how to build electric cars.

This would help them into jobs as electricians, and possibly lead to jobs-training certification at Coconino Community College, Locke said.

"As we try to prepare kids for jobs in the future, that's certainly an area that we want to focus on," said Barbara Hickman, FUSD's superintendent.

Cyndy Cole can be reached at 913-8607 or at ccole@azdailysun.com

ON THE WEB: See how Arizona compares for wind power (interactive graphic) http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/

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