Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Alternative Energy as a School Project

Posted on: December 12, 2009


We are having discussions within the science department regarding an alternative energy initiative.  We want to try to become a leader in the local community by educating and involving our students.

We’ve discussed a school-wide program to convert student and teacher homes over to the new energy efficient bulbs, perhaps selling the bulbs.  We’ve discussed installing a solar hot water heater, but our school doesn’t use much hot water, probably not enough to show a return.  I’d like to look into wind energy.

Has anybody tackled this problem?  I have done only basic research on the topic.  I’ve spoken to our zoning person in the town I live in (I work in Philadelphia), and he says nobody has put one in yet.  I’m curious if there are grants or other assistance programs out there to aid schools in bringing this kind of technology to the students.

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3 Responses to "Alternative Energy as a School Project"

Hi Scott,

Kudos to you for your initiative! I work as an energy management consultant, and used to develop wind feasibility studies in my previous job. Hopefully I can provide some advice to get you moving in the right direction.

First of all, you would want to do a quick self-assessment of your facility to see if its appropriate for wind. Is it windy in general in your area? Are there large buildings or trees nearby that may potentially block prevailing winds? If so, photo-voltaic panels may be a better option.

If the location you’re looking at seems clear and windy, you can take a look at an online wind map to determine your wind resource. There are a lot of other boundaries to putting up a wind turbine, mainly structural and siting issues. Most communities don’t have ordinances to handle wind turbine siting, meaning it’s very difficult to get a turbine construction approved. If the system is small enough, though, I think you’d have a pretty good shot at moving the project forward. See if you can find a wind power installer in your area, they should have more details about your specific location. Here’s a good resource for planning your wind project: http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/pdfs/small_wind/small_wind_pa.pdf

Pennsylvania has a couple of assistance programs that might be able to provide some funding. Your best bet is probably PA’s “Renewable Energy Program” for geothermal and wind projects (http://www.newpa.com/find-and-apply-for-funding/funding-and-program-finder/funding-detail/index.aspx?progId=191). The Governor’s Green Government Council also provides incentives for high-performance schools, but requires that the school achieves LEED ‘Silver’ within a year of receiving assistance (http://www.gggc.state.pa.us/gggc/cwp/view.asp?a=516&q=157125&gggcNav=%7C6833%7C7467%7C).

Also, the US Department of Energy put together a nice resource of educational materials for teachers to use with students of all different ages (http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/schools_teaching_materials.asp).

Hopefully this is helpful!

Dear Friends,
I am 13 years old and I am in 8th grade in Sierra Madre Middle School. I am doing an expirement based on physical science amd I want to do it on solar energy, can you help me?

If you want to post your ideas here for your project, I’m sure we can try to guide you, but we aren’t going to be able to create a project for you.

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