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October 20, 2012

Northwestern educates students about new wind turbine

Northwestern High School biology teacher David Inskeep strummed his guitar Friday and sang about stuffy, old tigers and fighting wind turbines.

“I just want to be a fighting turbine,” he crooned. “I’m going to spin with my nose in the wind. I go around and come around again.”

He proposed in his song that the school ditch their “stuffy, old tiger” mascot and become a fighting turbine instead.

Students laughed, clapped, cheered and sang along to his fight song.

The performance kicked off a community wind celebration Friday afternoon at the high school to educate students on the school district’s newly installed wind turbine.

“I’d had a lot of questions from students [about the turbine],” said Al Remaly, Northwestern High School principal. “They asked how tall it was and how big it was. A lot of them saw it go up, but they didn’t understand what went into building it.”

So the school partnered with Performance Services and Native Energy to bring the students a lesson on clean energy.

The companies constructed Northwestern’s turbine and turbines at North Newton and West Central schools.

It was the first time they taught students, though.


Tony Kuykendall, business development manager at Performance Services, talked about the wind energy study done in Kokomo.

The area has wind speeds of 6.8 meters per second or 15 mph, the third highest in the state, Kuykendall said.

He said the district could save up to $7 million over the turbine’s 25-year lifespan.

But Northwestern had to be concerned about environmental impacts of their project.

“The wind turbine has to be controlled in certain months to protect Indiana bats,” he told the students.

The district looked at whether it would cast shadows on or create noise problems for homes in the area.

Kuykendall flashed graphs across a projector in the auditorium indicating that neither should be an issue.

Nearby houses shouldn’t have shadows cast on them more than 24 hours per year, Kuykendall said. And the noise in the area shouldn’t reach above 45 decibels, the equivalent of a refrigerator running.

“That’s not very loud,” Kuykendall said.

Pete Beiriger, senior energy engineer at Performance Services, quizzed the students on the turbine’s construction.

Kids yelled out answers to questions as they fought for prizes like water bottles and energy bars.

He asked them how much the turbine weighs in cars.

One student correctly guessed that it was 100 cars or 150 tons.

Others looked shocked.

Students got prizes for knowing that it took eight semis to deliver crane parts to the construction site and that 200 houses could be powered by the turbine. No one guessed that the turbine’s foundation weighs 2.64 million pounds.

“Your foundation is the biggest,” Beiriger said.

The wind energy lessons continued after the companies left Friday.

Several seventh-period classes had activities of their own planned.

Inskeep’s biology class was developing a hypothetical wind farm operation that reduces bat mortality.

Students worked in groups of four to develop a schedule of when to turn the turbines on and off based on the patterns of bats in the area.

“How will your plan protect the bats?” Inskeep asked the students. “How will it be profitable?”

A few doors down, an integrated chemistry and physics class built wind turbines.

Junior Brandon Alexander built his blades out of cardboard wrapped in duct tape.

“We’ve tried a lot of different designs,” he said. “If the cardboard doesn’t work, we’ll try something lighter.”

He and his partner tested out their turbine by sitting it in front of a fan.

They waited a few seconds before breathing a sigh of relief that the turbine was holding up.

They hooked it up to a tool that measured how much energy they were creating. It was enough to operate a small motor.

Kuykendall was surprised at how well their outreach efforts worked.

“This started out as something small and grew from there,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun. The students are engaged.”

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