Skip to main content

Colorado's Wind for Schools Project Receives Wirth Chair Award: A Wind Powering America Success Story

May 8, 2012

On April 25, Colorado's Wind for Schools project was honored with a Wirth Chair Award for its work in integrating wind energy into classrooms throughout the state.

The award from the Wirth Chair in Sustainable Development at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver honors environmental and sustainable development achievements across Colorado. Alice Madden, Wirth Chair in Sustainable and Community Development, believes that this year's awards highlight a diverse group dedicated to the advancement of a sustainable future.

"In keeping with this year's theme, I was looking for people who are doing work in education. Obviously, Wind for Schools does that at both the K-12 level and in higher education," Madden said.

According to Colorado Wind Application Center Director Mike Kostrzewa, the award represents not only the program's 2012 accomplishments but also the many accomplishments since its inception. Kostrzewa estimates that the Colorado Wind for Schools project has reached in excess of 3,000 K-12 students and has also provided hands-on experience to more than 50 higher-education students who have helped design and install projects.

"This is recognition of the work we've done for the past 4 years, and it comes at a good time for us because our funding has really dropped off," Kostrzewa said. "Our 4-year contract with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is coming to a close, so this award comes at a time when we're trying to raise private funds to keep the program going. This kind of award should help publicize the work that we do, how important we think it is, and hopefully we'll get the chance to raise more funding to keep it going."

Since 2009, the Colorado Wind Application Center at Colorado State University and the Colorado Governor's Energy Office selected nine rural schools to participate in the Wind for Schools project: Arriba-Flagler Consolidated School District High School in Flagler, Burlington High School in Burlington, Kit Carson High School in Kit Carson, Stratton High School in Stratton, Walsh High School in Walsh, and Wellington Middle School in Wellington, Ponderosa High School in Parker, Nederland Middle/Senior High School in Nederland, and Park County RE-2 School District in Fairplay.

Colorado Wind for Schools State Facilitator Tom Potter said that the award represents the work of many, including Mona Newton, formerly of the Governor's Energy Office, and Colorado Representative Andy Kerr, who was key in initiating the legislation that provided state support for Wind for Schools in Colorado.

"The award brings to the attention of many the fact that this is a true success story for the legislature and their intent to educate and train Colorado kids in renewable technologies," Potter said.

The Wirth Chair is named for former U.S. Senator and Undersecretary of State Timothy E. Wirth. This year marks the 13th anniversary of the award and celebrates the "Creators of a Sustainable Future." Other recipients were the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, Veterans Green Jobs, the Denver Sustainability Park, the Colorado Alliance of Environmental Education, and the late David Getches, former dean of the University of Colorado School of Law.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Powering America initiative, based at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, helped to launch the Wind for Schools project in 11 states (Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) to address workforce development needs and public resistance to wind energy deployment. The general approach of the Wind for Schools project is to install small wind turbines at rural elementary and secondary host schools while developing Wind Application Centers at higher education institutions. Teacher training and hands-on curricula are implemented at each host school to bring the wind turbine into the classroom through interactive and interschool wind-related research tasks. The students at the Wind Application Centers act as wind energy consultants. They assist in the assessment, design, and installation of the small wind systems at the host schools, which prepares them to enter the wind workforce once they graduate. More information about the Wind for Schools project is available at the Wind Powering America website.

—Julie Jones