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North Carolina Installs Nine Wind for Schools Projects in 2011: A Wind Powering America Success Story

Feb. 14, 2012

North Carolina's Wind for Schools project team installed nine projects in the Tar Heel State in 2011 and hopes to facilitate more installations in 2012.

According to Dave French, associate director of the Appalachian State University Wind Application Center, the achievement can be attributed to the group's preliminary work preparing for the multiple installations which was rewarded when funding was received late in the year. While waiting for the funding, the team members concentrated on siting, identifying host schools, and talking to teachers.

"It was really nice to finally be able to call those teachers and tell them that we were able to deliver once we got our funding. Then things kind of turned into a sprint," French said.With a deadline of six months in which to spend the money, the group had limited time for the planning, zoning, and construction process for the nine schools. To complete all installations prior to the end of the year, the group contracted them to Sundance Energy Systems, a local company with renewable energy project experience.

Seven of the nine schools installed the 2.4-kilowatt Skystream 3.7 turbine. Installations were divided into two categories: coastal and mountain. The coastal schools are First Flight Middle School, JP Knapp High School, and Cape Hatteras Secondary School of Coastal Studies. The mountain schools are Avery County High School, Alleghany County High School, Watauga County High School, and North Wilkes Middle School. The team also installed turbines at the College of Albemarle's Dare and Edenton campuses.

Two sources provided funding for the projects. A rural development grant that was part of a state program focused on workforce development provided funding for the coastal installations. The Wind for Schools project team partnered with Albemarle Resource Conservation & Development to apply for this funding. The North Carolina Green Business Fund provided funding for the mountain installations.

Jessica Hocz, program manager at the Mountain Valleys Resource Conservation & Development, Inc. and North Carolina Wind for Schools project state facilitator, believes that these projects are important examples of wind energy in a state with few installations.

"Utility-scale wind really hasn't taken hold in North Carolina," Hocz said. "It's a state that has a great wind resource on the coast and in the mountains, but we have a lot of challenges right now, so it's more important than ever to promote wind energy, even if it's on a small scale."

"We were very encouraged by the progress of the North Carolina Wind for Schools team over the past year," said Ian Baring-Gould, Wind Powering America technical director. "The five new states that joined the Wind for Schools project last year hit the road sprinting, and we are very encouraged by their progress. By the end of 2012, we expect to have more than 100 wind turbines installed at schools across the nation that directly relate to the Wind for Schools project. Although this may not be many in general terms, the tens of thousands of students who walk by these turbines every morning will help determine the future of our great nation."

Funding for additional school projects in 2012 is still undetermined, but the team members continue to identify likely host school sites in the interim.

"We have some really good candidate schools picked out," French said. "We're at kind of the same place we were last year, where we picked out some sites with a combination of a good resource and a teacher who's really interested in the project. They've been spreading the word around their schools, and we've been trying to come through on our end. Once Jess Hocz secures funding, we'll be able to move forward with this next round."

The U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Powering America initiative also provides funding for the Wind for Schools project, which works to raise awareness in rural America about the benefits of wind energy while increasing the wind knowledge base of future leaders of our communities, states, and nation. The project is currently supported in 11 states (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Virginia).

More information about the Wind for Schools project is available.

—Julie Jones