Since my friend Hugh Curtler has been speaking poetically about Don Quixote’s author Miguel Cervantes this week (see www.hughcurtler.wordpress.com), it dovetails nicely with some research I have been doing on the burgeoning wind energy industry in this country. Since I shared with Hugh that I have been known to chase a windmill or two being accused of channeling my inner Don Quixote, I thought it was timely to share an initiative I uncovered about “Wind for Schools.” For more on the subject of wind energy, please check out an earlier blog called “Blowing in the Wind” I wrote on January 25 of this year.
Wind for Schools is an initiative I learned about from Appalachian State University, a state school located in Boone, North Carolina. They participate in an initiative that is now in 11 states including North Carolina – Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Virginia – which impacts 120 schools. In short, the initiative places wind turbines on school campuses to provide electricity for the schools, as well as teach the children more about alternative energy, in particular, wind energy. The initiative is sponsored by the Department of Energy and National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
In NC, the Appalachian State led initiative installed four wind turbines in the mountains at Alleghany High, Avery High, Watauga High and North Wilkes Middle Schools in 2011. On the Coast of NC, they installed five wind turbines at JP Knapp, Cape Hatteras Secondary and First Flight Schools as well as College of the Albemarle – Dare and College of the Albemarle – Edenton. Looking at a NC wind turbine map, these nine installations add to an ever-growing number of wind turbines around the state. Like solar energy, the wind turbines, need not be huge developments, although that is more efficacious. They can be small 1 to 3 kiloWatt electricity producers that can power a building or enterprise, such as an auto repair, dry dock storage, consulting, and eco-energy businesses, e.g.
And, they create jobs, not just directly in the wind turbine construction, power creation and maintenance, but in jobs to truck and install the component parts. Looking on the web, you can find large-scale companies and small-scale companies geared up around an aspect of the wind development process. In Raleigh, Underwriter Laboratories advertises a need for Wind Turbine Certification Services jobs, e.g. I noted in my earlier post that there are 75,000 US jobs today associated around the wind energy industry and, if we continue to invest in the industry there could be 500,000 by 2030. These jobs pay well and tend to be done by local residents trained to do the tasks.
Finally, people support the movement to wind, solar and alternatives forms of energy. Truth be told, part of the huge group of naysayers are the fossil fuel based energy companies who want to promote current forms of energy exploration by downplaying how far these cleaner industries have come. The fossil fuel industry is so effective at it, many still believe these alternative energy industries are fledgling. While some cleaner industries still need some financial support, they continue to get more scalable as long term energy solutions on an annual, and even monthly, basis.
Per a survey in 2010 by Public Policy Polling (email@example.com) of western North Carolina residents (where our mountains exist), 85% of the residents want more investment in wind energy, 82% want more solar energy, and 50% want more hydro-electric energy. Only 38% want more natural gas-powered energy and only 34% want more nuclear energy. Going further, 60% want less coal and 35% want less nuclear powered energy.
I have written several posts about solar energy heating up, pun intended. These projects can be big or small and are making a difference with California leading the way with over 1 gigaWatt of solar energy. If California were a country, it would be in the top ten in solar energy production in the world. In NC, our state is the 5th most prolific solar energy powered state and will soon move up to 4th. Wind energy need not be any different. Where the wind blows in abundance, these elegant wind turbines can power a great deal. And, when I see a number of wind turbines like you see in western New York state just off the interstate near Corning, I take pride that we are making the right steps. When I see fracking sites or oil derricks, I see just the opposite – environment degradation. Per the above survey, the western NC residents, agree with 83% having a positive image of the wind turbines in the mountains.
In my view, this is the future state. Solar and wind energy are key energy solutions. As for wind, we need to embrace it, fund it until it is not needed to make it scalable and let it truly take flight, again pun intended. Teaching kids about wind energy with active projects is a wonderful investment and is laudable. More power to those who created this teaching/ investment model and folks like Appalachian State University for helping execute it. The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.