“It was a breeze,” said Grayson Newell, Project Manager for the installation of the Skystream 3.7 wind turbine at Madison High School. While tilting the 34 foot monopole tower up and watching the turbine catch the wind on May 26 certainly went smoothly, it was the result of months of planning and coordination between many partners who are committed to bringing clean and renewable energy to the region. Two other schools, Hot Springs Elementary and Madison Middle, will be receiving similar systems this summer.
The vision for the Madison County Wind for Schools project came from Russell Blevins, Coordinator for Mountain Valleys Resource Conservation & Development, who procured a grant for the educational initiative from the Appalachian Regional Commission. Russell’s son, Brandon, who works as the Wind Coordinator for The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, provided much of the technical expertise for the proposal. While the main purpose for the project is to serve as a functioning educational demonstration, the process established the protocol for small wind systems in Madison County. From obtaining the required permits to interconnecting with utilities, the cooperation was strong. Both French Broad Electric Membership Corporation and Progress Energy have been supportive of the project and will be receiving the electricity that is generated by the systems.
Another significant partner in the project is the Madison County School System, which is excited about the educational opportunities that this initiative offers to its students. The Western North Carolina Renewable Energy Initiative at Appalachian State University has been contracted with for curriculum support, and according to Mike Uchal, wind power education will be included into the curriculum at the elementary, middle, and high school grade levels, and will focus on the basics of wind energy as well as the science and application of the technology, along with an introduction to the growing industry of wind power and its benefits to the region. Quint David, the Outreach and Training Coordinator for WNCREI, adds “Our purpose here is to help promote renewable energy technology and education as a viable solution to our climate and economic crisis…. We need to learn about Energy. The Madison County wind for schools project does just that.” But in saying “these small wind turbines will inspire students, teachers, parents, folks at Ingles, people at the football game, and the local electric coop to pursue more locally-produced clean energy,” Brent Summerville, a long-time wind educator from ASU, brings to mind the fact that these turbines will have a deep and positive impact on the entire community as well as the region.
The turbine chosen for this project, the Skystream 3.7, is a residential scale system, with a rated capacity of 1.8 kW. It has a rotor diameter of 12 feet, with a swept area of 115.7 square feet. It is recommended that the site where these turbines are installed receives at least an average wind speed of 10 miles per hour, which will not always be found at the schools, but there certainly will be times when the blades will be spinning. The prime areas for wind energy in this region are the ridge tops above 3,000 feet, and there is a lot of research currently going on about how wind energy will be developed in this region, much of it being led by the Small Wind Initiative at ASU. Perhaps some of this work will be taken up by students at Madison High who will see opportunities when the wind blows on their hill.
Source: SunDance Power