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3/15/2011 4:16:00 PM
Wind generator technology to be installed at Williams Elementary-Middle School
District officials hope one medium sized, 45-foot wind tower used to teach math and science will be installed before beginning of 2011-2012 school year
The Williams Unified School District will seek public comment before moving forward with a wind turbine curriculum at Williams Elementary-Middle School.
The Williams Unified School District will seek public comment before moving forward with a wind turbine curriculum at Williams Elementary-Middle School.

Ryan Williams
Managing Editor

WILLIAMS - The Williams Unified School District (WUSD) not only offers students courses in the usual subjects like math science and english, it also offers a range of vocational classes including construction, engineering and culinary arts. The district hopes to offer wind energy curricula as soon as next fall.

With renewable energy rapidly becoming a viable technology, the time is right for local students to learn the ins and outs of the technology. One way to do that is to install a working wind generator at Williams Elementary-Middle School.

The Arizona Wind for Schools (AWS) program at Northern Arizona University will fund the wind turbine project. The program is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

WUSD Superintendent Steve Hudgens said the proposed wind energy program will enhance educational offerings in the district.

"It is really going to enhance the science department and math department as well. It's really going to have an effect on both of Mike Fleishman, science teacher at Williams High School, said the funding will be used to construct one medium sized, 45-foot tall wind tower.

"They're not huge, but they are a wind generator," Fleishman said. "The concept here is let's get the students involved from day one in terms of here is what we do to plan for it, here is how we construct it. High school students can put this thing together."

WUSD students will construct the generator and attach the blades as well. Once the fabrication is complete, professionals will erect the tower.

Electricity produced by the generator will travel directly to the elementary school's electricity panel. Fleishman said electric power will benefit the school - the generator will likely produce enough electricity to provide the electrical needs of two homes over the course of a year - but that's not the primary purpose of the project.

"The primary purpose of this project is to learn about wind generation," Fleishman said. "Introduce it into the elementary grades. Then, combine it with the high school curriculum in terms of maintenance, analysis of energy, applications of this across the curriculum from math to science to GIS. I can plot how many wind days we have, what it looks like."

Fleishman said he envisions developing programs at the high school level focusing on building generators and turbines, skills likely to be in demand in the near future as renewable energy becomes more and more sought after.

"Let's look at how we generate electricity and how we look at impedance and how we hook these things up," he said. "Let's start preparing our students for 21st century job skills. Let's build a functioning wind generator and learn the science of it, learn the mechanics of it, learn the economy of it, learn the business of it. It's a learning scenario."

Hudgens said he hopes to have the program in place at the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

"It doesn't do us any good to try to start a program using that kind of equipment at the end of this year," Hudgens said. "We want to start the school year with it."

Hudgens said an open meeting will be scheduled towards the end of the school year to explain the program to community members.

"We'll invite the community in to hear any comments," he said. "We're looking at doing this for educational purposes."

During their Nov. 10 regular meeting, members of the WUSD Governing Board approved the wind project.

In most cases, AWS only assists schools that have shown the available fundraising necessary to host a teachers' workshop or install a small wind turbine. However, in the case of the Williams Unified School District, they are able to offer both of these services at no cost due to a contribution from NextEra Energy resources, the company behind the Perrin Ranch Wind Farm project approved by the Coconino County Board of Supervisors in February.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, March 20, 2011
Article comment by: Linda Webb

There are several issues here that it is good to see being discussed. First, let's take the easy one, a donation of a wind turbine and the curriculum to the Williams' Schools. This is a great learning opportunity if the curriculum is honest and all issues are presented not just the upside but also the issues that have to be considered. Any time young people have a chance to learn hands-on about a topic is good.
Next to address the subsidies to companies - the government is always giving somebody money depending on who is in office and what is popular at the time. Money to oil companies that make obscene profits is not any better than money to subsidize wind companies that won't produce reliable energy. However, they are not the same thing. Oil companies do not produce electricity (less than 10% of our electric energy has any use of oil) the biggest use is for the production of gasoline for our vehicles so wind energy will do nothing to reduce our need for oil.
The big objections to the wind energy projects being touted is that they will really not do anything for anyone except the power companies that build them. They will only produce a fraction of the power,20-30% of what is being advertised. They are not reliable sources of energy - no wind - no power!!! If the wind doesn't blow on a hot summer day, the people in Phoenix and LA will need power from somewhere else to run their air conditioners. Not one power plant anywhere in the world has been replaced by all the wind turbines that have been erected! In fact, last summer Great Britain had to purchase power from France (nuclear) to keep running because their wind complexes could not meet the demand and they had brown outs.
And they are not green! They create as much environmental damage as any other form of energy in total if you count the construction process, the materials used, and the wildlife impacts.
So are people mad - YES! Do we hate wind power- no- just the misrepresentations that are being made about it. And we object to the fact that the plan is to turn all of Northern Arizona into a huge wind energy complex at taxpayer and ratepayer expense. And what will we get in return? A huge bill for electric that we can't rely on and that will not replace the Navajo Generating Station which runs at 85% capacity 24-7-365.

Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011
Article comment by: Chris Robus

2 wrongs don't make a right. didn't we all learn that somewhere. Just because the gov't blows tax dollars on oil companies doesn't mean it's good that they blow it on economically challenged wind power programs. The people of Williams don't hate wind power, they hate being lied to by all levels of government and are smart enough to call it out. We don't blindly follow the teachings of the Obama crowd.

Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Article comment by: A very worthy endeavour

This is great news. Educating our children about wind power will help counter the ignorance and misinformation about renewable energy that's been surfacing in our community recently. Thanks to NextEra for sponsoring this effort.

Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Article comment by: Doug Woodford

There are plenty of reasons to be upset about how taxpayer dollars are spent...what makes this any different?

Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Article comment by: The Real Common Sense

What is it with the citizens of Williams and their hatred for wind power technology? On what basis do you make the charge that, "The Department of Energy is probably blowing tens of thousands on projects like these that will take 20 years to return an investment on the original costs." If you want to be upset about something maybe it should be the billions of taxpayer dollars given to oil companies while they make record profits.

Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Article comment by: Chris Robus

Nothing is free. How much is it costing the taxpayer? The Department of Energy is probably blowing tens of thousands on projects like these that will take 20 years to return an investment on the original costs. This should be looked into now.

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