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Student Group Drives Renewable Energy Project

Students at Camden Hills Regional High School (CHRHS) in Rockport, ME are getting a hands-on education about renewable energy, thanks to a 121-foot-tall wind turbine located next to the school's athletic fields. The school is using the turbine, installed last March, to generate electricity and teach students about alternative energy sources.

The NPS 100 wind turbine, from Northern Power Systems, is the result of an eight-year project started by a group of CHRHS students, the Windplanners. The group's goal was to increase renewable energy sources on campus. More than 100 students worked together, performing research, securing approvals and permits, and raising the $500,000 needed for the project.

The turbine is integral to the school's science curriculum, according to Margo Murphy, CHRHS science teacher and Windplanners advisor. Students track the turbine's performance and energy output using Northern Power System's SmartView 3 software, which comes with remote monitoring and reporting features. The collected data is integrated into lesson plans and class discussions. "All the data gathered from the wind turbine is integrated into every aspect of the curriculum at the school," explained Murphy, in a prepared statement from Northern Power Systems. "By the end of the year, all freshmen will be able to access, assess and make sense of the data."

The project has inspired other schools around the state to look for ways they can become more energy efficient. Students from eight other Maine schools have joined the Windplanners project and are now tracking energy use on their campuses. The students will use the collected data to "compare expected energy production to what the turbine is actually producing and explore any differences."

The Windplanners, founded in 2004, includes five teams, each responsible for a different aspect of the project. The Data Management Team monitors the energy produced by the turbine. The Communications Team manages the project's web page. The Outreach Team coordinates tours and gives presentations to community groups. The Energy Action Team handles school events and is working to shape the school's culture around energy consumption. The Fundraising Team writes grants to raise money for projects aimed at boosting energy efficiency.

More information about the Windplanners' project can be found online.

About the Author

Kanoe Namahoe is online editor for 1105 Media's Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].