The Renewable Classroom: Electricity + Education
PHOTO: Students from Colorado School District 51 participate in the installation of a wind turbine at the district career center in Summer 2012. Courtesy Christy McGee.
December 11, 2012
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - A Colorado school district is taking advantage of what it has a lot of - sun and wind - and using those to power the classroom in both electricity and education. Grand Junction's District 51 recently did a major rehab, installing solar panels on building rooftops and even adding a wind turbine by the district career center.
District energy manager Eric John Anderson says the idea is to take advantage of the region's solar-power potential, but also to give pupils some cutting-edge skills in the renewable power industry.
"This was sort of new for us. It's all towards creating those pathways for these students to leave District 51 and enter the career field somewhere, hopefully in Colorado, in renewable energy."
Students helped to install the windmill and solar panels at the district's career center this summer, and will use both in their classroom education, starting as early as the third grade. The district has cut its bills by $1 million annually since beginning its energy-efficiency and renewable-energy program five years ago.
Principal Pat Chapin runs the district's career center. He says the renewables-based system gives their pupils a jump start on their careers even if they don't go to college.
"What we're trying to do is look at what the industry needs, instead of just offering the same classes that were offered 30 years ago. That is an area that is becoming a source for employment for our young people."
Anderson says the new solar panels at the career center are generating about half the energy for the site.
"When we have these kinds of discussions about the projects we're going to undertake, we start from a perspective of 'Will this save us money?' Colorado K-through-12 education has taken a hit for at least four years now."
The project was co-sponsored by the Department of Energy's Wind for Schools program, Colorado State University, the Loew's Foundation and the City of Grand Junction's Greenbacks program.