Chesapeake school uses wind turbine as teaching tool

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – The wind is creating new educational opportunities for students in Chesapeake.

Grassfield High School is now a part of the Wind for Schools program through James Madison University. And you could say the partnership is powered by a new addition on campus that’s hard to miss. Each time the football team kicks a field goal this season, there’s a 60-foot turbine in sight, showing the school’s focus goes well beyond sports.

Photos: Grassfield High School Wind Turbine

“The thought process behind it was really to have an educational tool, not really to power the building,” said Tom Spencer, who’s an engineering teacher that spear-headed the effort. “We understood that wasn’t going to happen, but we can provide a small power offset, and we do.”

Usually, when you think of wind turbines, you picture large farms, often offshore, generating hundreds of megawatts of power that could light millions of homes. But now students will be learning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) curriculum in relation to how wind turbines operate and how to get into related careers through a 1.4kw version right on their campus.

But first the wind turbine will start by powering a place students frequent for food.

“We’ve trenched cable underneath the ground to the concession building, and it will offset some commercial refrigerators and freezers that we have out there that have to run all the time,” Spencer said. “The main purpose is there’s going to be streaming live data online as a result of this wind turbine’s operation.”

A wireless signal from the turbine makes it to the small device, which then transmits data to a Wind Applications Center at Kansas State University. That’ll make it available for all to view around the world and right here in Hampton Roads.

“We are thinking about our energy use,” Spencer said. “We’re thinking about potential other sources of energy and we’re educating students about these topics. People are excited that we’re investing in our students in the way that we are, and we’re excited that our community is investing in us.”

Grassfield’s turbine will be operational in the next two weeks.

Wind for Schools also helped with the four turbines installed at Virginia Beach Public School’s Pupil Transportation Facility. It became the first facility of that type in Virginia to incorporate wind energy in to the facility.

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