Tech school might install wind generator

January 04, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A wind generator placed near the entrance of Washington County Technical High School wouldn't produce much energy, but officials say it would provide an alternate education source for students.

Alan Zube, a pre-engineering teacher at the high school, said a wind generator -- which produces power from wind -- would offer hands-on lessons in energy, and he and other school officials are working to secure grant funding to construct one on school property.

If the project moves forward, officials say it would be the only project of its kind at a Washington County school.

"We're always looking for best practices," said Washington County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Instruction Donna Hanlin. "In this case ... it's the resources to provide our students with the highest quality instruction. It's especially important that instruction is relevant and cutting-edge, and prepares our students to compete in today's world."


Zube said he has been speaking with the owner of Potomac Wind Energy, based in Dickerson, Md., about the project.

Zube, who has been at Washington County Technical High School for about five years, said the purchase of the wind generator and construction will cost about $22,000. He expects to know by the end of this month if the school will receive the $10,000 grant. An application also has been made for a separate $5,000 grant.

Zube said he expects the school can pay for the remaining $7,000 by having students do much of the installation.

Students studying construction could pour the concrete for the wind generator's base and students studying electrical construction could do the wiring to cut costs, Zube said.

The generator would sit on a 50-foot tower. If grant funding is received, Zube said he expects construction could begin Sept. 1, and the wind generator could be operating within 30 days.

"If it comes to fruition, our students will definitely benefit from the hands-on learning that will be provided through these resources," Hanlin said.

Zube said it would demonstrate new technology and alternate energy sources, and give students a chance to learn about how to construct wind generators.

"This technology is only going to be more common," he said. "Our students need to be prepared to work with this type of technology."

Washington County Technical High School teacher Kevin Seburn said he has requested a grant for solar panels to be mounted on the school's roof or on the ground.

If the windmill and the solar panels are in place, Zube said the school could become an "alternate energy hub," representing innovative energy ideas and research.

Seburn, an adviser for the school's environmental club, said he's also interested in securing a $10,000 grant for energy research through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Zube said grants will be awarded based on the merits of an idea. If Washington County Technical High School is approved, it will receive the money to fully research the idea for a roof that would change color from season to season. The roof could be white in the summer to reflect sunlight and black in the winter to absorb heat.

Zube said the application is almost complete, and if the school is selected, officials will know by September.

"We want our students to go out and solve the energy crisis," he said.

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