A group of teachers from the University of Toledo visited the Oregon City Schools District on July 5 to learn about the benefits of installing wind turbines on school campuses and about their performance and energy saving capabilities.
Dennis Slotnick, a Clay High School science instructor, met with the teachers, who expressed considerable interest in the turbines at Eisenhower Middle School and Clay High School. The turbines generate electricity by wind and provide power to the schools, thereby cutting costs in utility bills.
“We met at Clay at 1:30 p.m.,” said Slotnick. “It was planned to be over at 4 p.m., but the teachers stayed on until 4:30 p.m.”
The teachers were from the Toledo Public Schools, Toledo Catholic Schools and Monroe County Intermediate School District. They are part of the LEADERS (Leadership for Educators: Academy for Driving Economic Revitalization in Science) graduate program, which helps teachers learn the latest in alternative energy and creative ways to teach their students about the industry.
“It was an interesting mix of people,” said Slotnick. “There were four representatives from the University of Toledo, and 24 teachers.”
The group first went to see the 900-kilowatt, 285 foot commercial wind turbine on the campus of Clay High School before they headed into the classroom.
“We spent time learning what could be done for students with hands on activities bringing about energy education,” said Slotnick.
“We talked about everything from `Why does wind blow?’ to `How can you store wind power in the form of hydrogen gas?’ I had a wind tunnel and hydrogen car set up. We had the teachers work with the equipment for about half an hour. Then we did an overview, from teacher to teacher, about how to address the myths and misunderstandings that students have about energy in the context of the Ohio standards for science. And we had some discussions about the full range of energy education. I invited them to be partners with us to enrich everyone’s understanding of energy,” said Slotnick.
“Then we went over to Eisenhower Middle School, which has two 190-foot turbines that are supplying up to 75 percent of the power needed on the school campus. It’s important for the teachers to see a mid level turbine since they had seen a smaller residential turbine and the very large, commercial-level turbine at Clay. So now they have seen in our district that we have all three levels of wind energy power, and they can compare that data,” he said.
The group also talked about some of the challenges of putting a turbine on campus.
“Teachers could hear the turbines at Eisenhower, and compare that to the sound of the nearby water treatment facility. They all were quite convinced that the water treatment facility is much louder than the turbines,” he said.
There was also a discussion about the impact turbines can have on birds and bats.
“No energy form is perfect. We’re looking to make this the research facility that will document how the blades of the turbine would impact wildlife.”
Slotnick said a dead bat is the only wildlife that was found near the turbines at Eisenhower.
“We use a series of tally sheets, and we go out there on a regular basis. We use the protocol of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). We have found no bird carcasses, no evidence of bird impact at all. The bat is unconfirmed because it was twice as far away from the turbine as what is expected. The bat was found on the ground early in the spring. But it was too far away from the blades to be properly counted. So this is something that science needs to investigate more thoroughly. It was over 100 feet from the turbine, outside the survey area, so it can’t be technically counted. But I can’t ignore it, either,” he said.
"We can all be very proud of these teachers, for they are the leaders in understanding how energy is produced, transformed and conserved,” said Slotnick. “They really get the connection between our fuel source, global warming and the importance of wind energy as a solution to many environmental problems.”
Joe Perlaky, business liaison for the LEADERS program at UT, promoted the visit to Clay.
“It worked out well,” said Perlaky. “Dennis did a great job.”
Renewable energy, he said, is not easily understood by the public.
“If you have the opportunity to spread accurate information, pros and cons, about any renewable energy, that’s a real good thing.”