Wind turbine powers school, serves as teaching tool

May 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Sixth-grader Madalyn Sibble was confused when she noticed a huge pinwheel outside Alliance Middle School.

“I was wondering what it was called because I had never seen one,” Madalyn, 12, said while discussing her initial impression of the wind turbine Alliance City School officials purchased for her school.

During the course of the academic year, Madalyn and her classmates got an up-close look at wind power being converted into electricity.

 “It is not just a big battery for us,” David Hammers, an Alliance High School science teacher, said. “It is a learning experience for the kids. It is not one of the big industrial ones, it is more residential. There are electronics in it, basically to send the signals to a computer inside just to calculate how much energy it is generating.”

GRANT MONEY

Hammers was instrumental in helping the school system get funding — American Recovery and Reinvestment Act aka federal stimulus money — for the project. It was part of the ARRA’s 21st Century Learning program.

“The high school and the middle school each got $250,000,” Hammers said. “The idea was to train people in 21st Century teaching. Everybody else sort of bought computers. We are the only ones who thought outside the box and bought a wind turbine. We are proud of it. It took a lot of work to get it.”

The windmill sits 45 feet high and is equipped with three 6-foot blades. Along with providing electrical power for Alliance Middle School, the wind turbine is serving as a laboratory for science students.

“I teach renewable energy,” said DeeAnn Zavarelli, a science teacher at the middle school. “I wanted them to see it in action. We take electricity for granted. When we start to show them the renewable side, their wheels (thoughts) start to turn.”

TEACHING TOOL

Some of the middle school students, such as Lena DeLeon, got a firm grasp of how wind power fits into society.

“We learned its purpose,” Lena, 12, said. “We learned it was used to generate electricity. It didn’t produce carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

Inside Zavarelli’s class is a projector that displays readings showing how much electrical power is being generated from the wind turbine.

“Over the course of a day it will all add up to about 15 kilowatts per day when the wind is blowing well,”  Hammers said. “There are some days the wind is not blowing at all.”

One recent day, the reading showed the turbine was generating 140 watts. A kilowatt is 1,000 watts.

School system officials bought the wind turbine from Wind Turbines of Ohio, a local installation company owned by Greg Courtney.

“Ideally, we need to be on a higher tower,” Courtney said. “Normally, I would expect 300 to 400 kilowatt hours per month. I don’t think I can count on that there because we are not as high as we should be. I think it is considerably less than that. We used the funds we had.”

The Sky Stream Turbine model was made by Southwest Wind Power of Flagstaff, Ariz. It cost is about $18,000, according to Courtney, who said he is not aware of any other school in Stark County with a wind turbine.

“We are trying to expand it to our seventh and eighth grade,” Zavarelli said. “It tied in with our renewable energy (instruction) unit and weather as well.”

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