Wind Applications Center Valuable Resource for Wind for Schools Partners
March 14, 2013
The Wind for Schools Program was launched in 2006 by the U.S. Department of Energy, Wind Powering America, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Six states were chosen as priorities for the program, and one of those states was Nebraska.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln houses the Wind Applications Center, which is the resource for K-12 partner schools in the program in Nebraska. Wind Applications Center Director Jerry Hudgins says wind is a fantastic resource in Nebraska, lending itself to renewable energy generation, especially in rural parts of the state. He says the jobs associated with wind production are just part of the reason rural Nebraskans should care about wind energy and wind turbines at schools.
"We have an interest in general education for students to learn about science and related fields associated with energy production, even conventional energy production, but also what value renewable energy brings to the mix. One of those, of course, is wind energy. One way to do this is to have a visible representation of one of those generating sources. A perfect example is a small wind turbine."
Hudgins says the purpose of this program isn't just to generate electrical energy, but to provide a source of discussion and learning about renewable energy and how it impacts everyone's lives and the job opportunities available.
"Not only do we install the wind turbines, but we try to work with the local teachers to help them develop some curriculum that would be appropriate for them. We certainly don't expect a huge amount of time devoted strictly to wind energy, but we work with them to insert, where appropriate, pieces of that. And that can come in various forms, from earth science areas to physics to economics, public policy issues, and so forth. So there are all kinds of ways you can discuss wind energy and renewable energy."
Wind Applications Center Associate Director Joel Jacobs says through this program 28 wind turbines have been installed across the entire state. With 25 partner schools in the program, Nebraska leads the nation and reaches 24,000 to 25,000 students.
"Here at the university, we have engaged students through a variety of means. We have helped develop a university-wide energy science minor. This minor discusses energy policy, energy use, different energy technologies, and this is open for any student throughout the whole university that would like to take this minor. Other programs that we have been participating in is a meteorological tower equipment loan program. So these would be the towers where you stick weather sensors on site to collect weather data for a year or two. And we have used student volunteers to help install these, to analyze the data, to help take them down, and just take care of this equipment."
At this time Hudgins says the Wind Applications Center provides logistical and technical support to the partner schools. He says the funding for the individual schools comes from a variety of sources in the state and from a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. In the past couple of years, though, Hudgins says funds have decreased and been harder to obtain, making it more difficult for schools to participate.
"We're sort of in a mode now of trying to maintain the existing installations that are out there in the field, work with them, and then also coordinate with other states that were involved in the program. We will downsize from the standpoint of probably the actual hours devoted to the project, but we certainly plan to be here and continue to provide technical support and logistical support. And we're always available. We certainly want to continue our educational opportunities with the local teachers at these schools and we will continue that activity as well as sort of an outreach, develop that, provide materials and opportunities for projects, and so forth. And then of course all of the activities that are currently underway at the university will continue as well."
For more information on the Wind for Schools Program, go to engineering.unl.edu and search "wind for schools."