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Alaska Installs Third Wind for Schools Turbine: A Wind Powering America Success Story

Posted Dec 15 2010 2:00am
Date: 12/15/2010

Mount Edgecumbe High School in Sitka and the U.S. Coast Guard installed a Skystream 3.7 wind turbine on December 15, 2010 at the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maple Moorings facility, located on Japonski Island next to the campus of Mt. Edgecumbe High School. Students, school and elected officials, and Coast Guard officers were on hand for the installation.

The turbine is the second in Alaska for the Coast Guard and the third in the state for the growing Wind for Schools project, which educates students about science and energy by installing wind turbines at schools and through an accompanying energy curriculum. Mt. Edgecumbe is one of more than 20 participating schools in Alaska. Team members from Anchorage-based non-profit Renewable Energy Alaska Project (REAP) and the University of Alaska's Alaska Center for Energy and Power administer the project for the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Powering America initiative.

"The options for education are really limitless. Using wind energy as a hands-on tool, students can learn about physics, math, and other energy applications," said Kat Keith of the Alaska Center for Energy & Power.

"The hands-on aspect is what makes Wind for Schools such a fantastic program. The kids can see the blades turning and see how the power of the wind can be harnessed to energize schools, homes, businesses, and ultimately our communities. It gets kids jazzed about science and energy and connects them with an industry that is growing in the state and across the nation," said Hannah Gustafson, REAP deputy director.

Math and physics teacher Matt Hunter was the impetus behind the project, which started after he saw a newspaper advertisement for the Wind for Schools project last March.

His efforts quickly snowballed when agencies, businesses, and groups donated their time, money, and services. Mt. Edgecumbe High donated $4,000; the City of Sitka Electrical Department donated $5,000; and the Coast Guard donated use of the turbine worth approximately $8,000 and the costs of connecting into the Sitka electric grid. Southwest Windpower offered 40% off the cost of the tower and foundation. Lynden Cargo provided free shipping, and REAP paid $1,000 toward the turbine cost. Other supporters included Sitka Ready Mix and Jacoby Construction.

"It was amazing how everyone came together and was so supportive," Hunter said. "This project wouldn't have happened without their help."

"The really cool thing is there are more than 90 commercial-scale wind turbines currently generating power in Alaska villages. These students will gain experience with wind power that could lead to real job opportunities in their own villages maintaining, installing, and operating those systems," he said. "They may also start thinking about wind as a possible alternative to the costly diesel that many communities now rely on for powering their communities."

For the Coast Guard, the turbine will provide a portion of the electrical power for the facility and will provide important information for future renewable energy efforts. According to Sudie Hargis, energy program specialist for the Coast Guard, "What we learn in Sitka will help us make strategic decisions regarding how to implement wind energy at other Coast Guard facilities, particularly at remote sites in Alaska. We are excited about this project that helps us in our objectives as well as helps the school and community."

The public will also be able to access real-time turbine data through the school project Web site hosted by DOE through the Idaho National Lab. Two other Alaska Wind for Schools project turbines are located at Sherrod Elementary in Palmer and the Coast Guard station in Juneau. A fourth turbine is scheduled to be installed soon at Mat-Su College campus near Wasilla.

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