Wind turbines that are providing energy to Oregon Schools also provides educational and curriculum advantages for the district’s students.
The “Wind for Schools” program allows students a more hands-on approach to alternative energy as students monitor and analyze the turbine’s performance in real time.
Dennis Slotnick, an environmental science and biology teacher at Clay High School, participated alongside representatives from SUREnergy and Chevron last week in a proposal to increase usage of wind turbines in the school district.
Slotnick’s presentation states that “any school can teach about wind energy with hands-on alternatives, and we do more than that at CHS.”
Output from a residential Skystream turbine already on campus helps Slotnick build a database curriculum for students. Slotnick’s classes have played a part in researching the benefits of wind turbines from the Skysteam 3.7 turbine operating at Clay’s Wind Research Facility.
Slotnick says Oregon City Schools has “pioneered wind energy in education by generating live, useful, cost-savings power for students to truly understand the science and practice of electricity.”
Slotnick displayed a chart from the Clay High School students’ research that shows wind data from the Skystream. It shows how the accumulated output from the Skystream consistently improved from its first month of production in October 2008 to June of this year. Another chart displays monthly output, which varies depending on wind speed and other variables.
The average monthly production of power from the residential unit already in place has been 213 kilowatt hours, which can be compared to the average American home use at 400 to 500 kilowatt hours per month. That is a savings of $21.30 per month for householders. Slotnick says, “students can compare their own energy use to this value.” The highest output for the Skystream was 457.2 kilowatt hours reported for January 2009.
In the first year of operation, the CHS Skystream produced 2,707 kilowatt hours, creating a savings of approximately $271. In the first 21 months of production, the Skystream has saved Oregon Schools 4,471 kilowatt hours, creating a total savings of $447.
For residential use, Slotnick says this is a worthwhile savings at 43 to 54 percent. The new turbines being proposed are commercial.
The preliminary environmental impact of the Skystream indicates —
• In observing bird impact, a three-month daily study showed no bird kills.
• No bat mortality reported.
• No complaints from neighbors about sound.
• Bird nesting behavior at wetlands is unaffected.
The report adds that a thorough investigation with scavenging rates and the accuracy of the investigator has yet to be completed.
“Already a pioneer in wind energy education, we are looking forward to a full research facility on campus with several makes and models of turbines as well as practical production for its electrical needs in the buildings,” Slotnick said. “’Practice what we teach,’ so to say.”
Slotnick signifies these purposes of wind research in education —
• Students experience directly the relationship between wind speed and power output.
• Calculations of electrical output in relation to daily use.
• To calculate the percent of energy produced and cost savings.
• To compare with energy systems with fossil fuel emissions.
• To view advantages and disadvantages of wind energy.
Although current wind turbines designs are very similar to windmills used for other purposes 400 years ago, the technology influences many core areas of study. Wind turbines’ impact on native species is becoming a new field of research, and the capture of energy and production capability are all quantifiable using formulas.
A Power Point presentation by Bryan Rathbun, assistant sales director for Sandusky-based SUREnergy, states that wind turbines and alternative energy often influence multiple career paths, including:
• Architecture — Designing and planning installations.
• Engineering — Engineers must be able to design foundations unique to every project.
• Electrician — Many electricians are employed for a single installation.
• Maintenance — Wind turbine maintenance crews are needed semi-annually for the 20-year life of a turbine.
• Sales and marketing — “One of the most crucial parts of any new business,” stated Rathbun’s presentation.
• Accounting — Detailed cash flow summaries guarantee the success of a project.