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Wind for Schools Project Enters 2013 with 124 Turbine Installations and Lessons to Share: A Wind Powering America Success Story

January 28, 2013

On January 14-15, 2013, Wind Powering America hosted its Sixth Annual Wind for Schools Summit at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Forty-six attendees representing the 11 official Wind for Schools states and various stakeholders met to discuss ways to further improve the Wind for Schools network in the established states and to increase the overall impact of the program.

Wind for Schools project states had a productive year in 2012. The Wind Applications Centers helped to install 30 small wind turbines at schools across the country, resulting in a total of 124 installations in the project's fifth year. Nebraska, one of the original six Wind for Schools states, installed seven turbines, increasing the state's total to 25 public school installations since 2008. According to Associate Director Joel Jacobs of the Nebraska Wind Applications Center, the Nebraska Wind for Schools project has had an estimated impact on 8% of the state's public school students since its implementation in FY08. Facing the end of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding, the Nebraska team will take a different approach, focusing on communications for the installed turbines rather than new installations.

"We're working on building code through LabView and trying to get that deployed," Jacobs said. "We'll see how far that goes and how successful that is. If we get that done, it will be a great benefit. It will take a lot of weight off our shoulders."

Arizona also had multiple installations in 2012, with eight turbines installed at four schools, bringing the state's total installations to 13 in a 2-year period. According to Karin Wadsack, state facilitator for the Arizona Wind for Schools project and research assistant at Northern Arizona University, multiple factors are involved in establishing a successful project. These factors include funding and teacher participation, but perhaps most notable, the proximity of the Wind Applications Center to the host schools plays an important role.

"Proximity is a big thing," Wadsack said. "I have university students helping with the education component. When they have class, we can't go to a school that's 3 hours away. When a school is close, it's much easier to be in the classroom. At Ponderosa High, which has a turbine and is in Flagstaff, I probably spent 2 weeks last semester teaching in their classes."

Colorado's Wind for Schools project accessed Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) funding that ensured an additional four installations in the state. The SEP was designed as a mechanism to provide entities with an alternative to paying fines for noncompliance with environmental laws. Instead of paying the entire fine amount, the entity can choose to fund environmentally friendly projects. While SEP funding is not a guaranteed annual source of funding, it is a success for the Colorado Wind for Schools team, which also faces the end of DOE funding.

Michael Kostrzewa, director of the Colorado Wind Application Center, worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to submit a proposal that would eventually secure $112,000 in funding.

"I had proposed that we could put a turbine in for $25,000," Kostrzewa said. "The CDPHE informed me that a violator (an entity in violation of environmental standards) with $112,000 was interested in our program, and they asked us to work out a formal budget for that amount. It was the right match of something in place and knowing how the system worked and a desire to do something. It worked well for this case, but it's not a consistent long-term plan."

In addition to state updates and sharing lessons learned, the Summit featured a session focusing on the need for and future of reliable data logging, which will allow schools to utilize historical and live data from all turbines in the Wind for Schools network. Other agenda topics included business development for Wind Application Centers, a wind industry and Production Tax Credit update, applying social media, and student and teacher curricula.

The group also discussed the future of the Wind for Schools project, including a possible program expansion and changes that may be implemented to aid in the success of new Wind for Schools states.

Established in 2005 to raise awareness in rural America about the benefits of wind energy while simultaneously developing a wind energy workforce and knowledge base in future leaders of our communities, states, and nation, the Wind for Schools project was originally supported through funding and technical assistance from DOE. It 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 on the Wind Powering America website.