UNL's electrical engineering expertise helps power Wind for Schools
UNL alumnus and current faculty Joel Jacobs, with hand on blade, leads installation of a wind turbine at a Nebraska school as part of the Wind for Schools project.
The Department of Electrical Engineering at UNL has become a key resource in Nebraska for the U.S. Department of Energy’s "Wind for Schools" project, by the National Renewable Energy Laboratories.
"The goal is to get kids excited about wind energy and fuel the potential for jobs at all levels of wind power generation and in the broader, renewable energy field," said Jerry Hudgins, professor and department chair.
UNL is working with schools in 20 Nebraska districts to install wind turbines that generate power as well as experiences incorporated into classroom learning at varied grade levels.
"We are a Wind Applications Center," said Joel Jacobs, who earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from UNL and is now a lecturer who also supports WFS activities. "We provide those schools with technical assistance, from helping with site coordination to procuring equipment, then installing the turbines and connecting them to the local power utility’s grid."
WFS coordinator Dan McGuire said the program "emphasizes the importance of a small operating wind turbine on a school campus to help students and teachers apply classroom lessons."
At Elkhorn Valley Schools in Tilden, located west of Norfolk in northeast Nebraska, school teams wear green—which also colors their curriculum. Lee Burenheide teaches physical science for grades seven to 12; his students apply WFS learning to design, construct and test the effects blade shape and size have on turbine efficiency. They "monitor and analyze the data collected from our wind turbine and compare it to archived data collected by our weather station."
Hudgins thinks this is a great start. "UNL’s Department of Electrical Engineering is getting recognized as a partner in many possibilities for wind power in Nebraska," he said. "We’re happy to be working with the younger students who are going to be doing even more with wind power in the future."