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Park Rapids Wind Energy Project Provides Clean Energy and Education

Mao Lee and Kathleen McCarthy
Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs)

The Park Rapids Area Century School in Minnesota knows the importance of saving energy, producing clean, renewable energy, educating the community and raising the next generation of young leaders — grades K–8, specifically. In 2007, the school received funding from CERTs and other organizations and individuals to install and monitor the production of a 20kW Jacobs wind turbine.

The turbine is tied directly to the ball field irrigation system and the vending stand for the school; excess energy production goes out to the grid. The project director, Del Holz, states that “While the small turbine is not expected to significantly reduce electricity costs for the school district, its constant presence on the grounds and its use in the classroom will help guide today’s students into becoming tomorrow’s energy conscious citizens.”

Teachers at Park Rapids Century School have been able to incorporate lessons about energy sources in general and wind energy in particular into their course curriculums on a regular basis, engaging students with this vital technology. “In addition to anticipated energy savings, the project helps teachers incorporate information about renewable energy into their curricula, touching on subjects from physics, engineer­ing and chemistry to biology, ecology and meteorology,” said former Minnesota Power Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) Specialist Dean Talbott. “The project also helps prompt classroom discussion on generation sources — from wind, coal and hydro to natural gas, biofuels and nuclear.”

“The most rewarding experience with the project was going into the classrooms and teaching the kids about wind energy and about the tower. Teaching the next generation about how to care for our environment better than we did … that’s why we put in the long hours on this project,” said lead teacher Shawn Anderson.

To make the wind turbine an even more accessible educational opportunity, the Park Rapids Wind Energy Committee decided to share the energy production data in real time on the Park Rapids Century School website at www.prwind.org. “This service allows students and the community at large to study the output of the wind turbine, as well as research the wind resources in the Park Rapids area,” said Anderson.

To complete this project, the Wind Energy Committee had to look for funding in many different areas. One obstacle they came across was that many organizations providing grants had very specific guidelines. Shawn Anderson explained how they overcame this: “This barrier challenged us to reach out to the community and be creative about how we put this project together. We gathered volunteer excavators, surveyors, electricians, as well as people who were able to contribute financially to the project. This is truly a community project.” A seed grant from the Clean Energy Resource Teams was used to pay for the installation and monitoring of the real-time, web-based clean energy monitoring service.

Anderson closed by saying, “Our greatest success and asset in this project is our team. Local citizens had the interest, but not the knowledge about wind energy. By tapping into the expertise and generosity of CERTs and community volunteers we were able to create a hands-on tool for generations of students to experience.” The small, educational wind energy project at Park Rapids Century School is a model that many other schools in Minnesota can follow.


For more information, please contact Shawn Anderson at esa@unitelc.com or 218-255-0655.

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