Archive for Sunday, January 18, 2009

School to build its first wind turbine

January 18, 2009


— A 2-year-old student-initiated green project has taken another step forward in the Shawnee Mission school district.

Doug Moles, a Shawnee Mission West High School science teacher, recently received approval to place a working model wind turbine at the school, the final step in creating the Shawnee Mission West Green Energy Resource Lab, which also includes solar panels atop the school.

The turbine is a first for the Shawnee Mission school district and the area.

Creating the Green Energy Resource Lab was the idea of students in Moles’ Science and Survival class two years ago.

“We talked about climate change, carbon dioxide emissions and wind and solar power,” he said. “The students asked if we could have solar panels and a working model of a wind turbine at the school.”

Creating the Energy Lab wasn’t a cakewalk for Moles or the school district. The turbine would have to be 60 feet tall in order to receive an uninterrupted, constant stream of wind. Because the turbine will be visible from its location, permits were required from the city of Overland Park, Moles said.

Gene Johnson, Shawnee Mission superintendent, became involved with the project when he was associate superintendent. “You can’t just put it up; you have to have approval from city and those providing the financial part,” Johnson said.

The city approved a five-year special-use permit for the project. Kansas Energy Commission has donated $15,000, to be split between solar panels and the wind turbine. Moles applied for several grants and funding came together, including another $22,200 in grants and other donations. Students even sold cookie dough to help finance the project.

The solar energy panels were installed atop the school last March. They were fully functional a month later.

Inverters on both the solar panels and the turbine convert the original direct current to alternating current, Moles said. Then the inverter analyses the grid fluctuations and cycle, and the power is introduced to the grid.

The solar arrays capture energy by using the sun’s electromagnetic rays, and the wind turbine harnesses wind energy in the air and converts the mechanical energy into electrical energy, Moles said.

Because the solar panels and turbine are working models, they have no significant impact on the school or surrounding areas. Rather, they are a teaching tool for students to learn the conversion of energy and how alternative energy sources will play out in the future.

“It was very forward-thinking of students two years ago,” Moles said.

Because these are working models, the information is sent to Web sites.

“We can access the production day-by-day, real-time data,” Moles said. “The lab offers hands-on learning tools and real-time applications for science classes.”

Shawnee Mission West will be the first school in the district to offer such a program, Moles said.

So what’s next for the Green Energy Resource Lab once the turbine is finished in the next month or so?

“Well, NOVA (the science show) talked of a steam-powered turbine. It could power a city of hundreds of thousands,” Moles said.

While the lab may not be ready for a steam-powered turbine, Moles said the next step was educating students on alternative energy.

“With job cuts and recession, alternative energy is a viable option for future employment,” Moles said. “We talk about climate change, and I think that a lot of people want to leave the world a better place when they leave as when they came.”


OlderThanMud 9 years, 5 months ago

Clean energy!! I'm all for it, I wonder if the concept can be expanded to other parts of Kansas ......

devobrun 9 years, 5 months ago

The energy required to design, build, and maintain the solar and wind electrical power generators exceed the amount of energy that will ever be produced by the units.Thus, the learning experience is one of filing papers, requesting subsidies, garnering approval, and finally getting a system running in the midst of a lot of rules. This is a valuable lesson.Spend a lot of time, money, and fossil fuel implementing a system that will be a net producer of more CO2 than it will save.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 5 months ago

"The energy required to design, build, and maintain the solar and wind electrical power generators exceed the amount of energy that will ever be produced by the units."Is there research to back up this claim, or just your assertion?

BenSmith 9 years, 5 months ago

Im not sure producing energy is necessarily the ultimate purpose of the project. Isnt it engaging and educating the students and helping them learn and share. The students should be encouraged for being so forward thinking, and those involved in the school and community should be encouraged for supporting them. Why bash their efforts and be negative.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 5 months ago

Ben71--Devobrun takes a religious/reactionary position on most things, which leads him to want to bash anything that doesn't jive with favored his orthodoxies.

Centerville 9 years, 5 months ago

So far, $37,000 from taxpayers. Another Kansas elementary school built one for $45,000 that on windy days, according to the superintendent, will be able to power a hair dryer. He said the return didn't matter, it was the "educational value" that counted.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 5 months ago

Right on !!! Experiential learning can't be beat. Makes me want to be (more of) a kid again. Thanks for being a teacher, Mr Moles.

BenSmith 9 years, 5 months ago

I just hope the kids or teachers involved dont see the negative comments. People talk about "change". Change isnt instant, it involves educating and empowering people. Yet when people like these kids and teacher make a genuine effort, and its people like these kids that will be able to make a difference in future years, others jump all over them and dismiss their efforts. Pretty discouraging.

devobrun 9 years, 5 months ago

Bozo: Google wind or solar energy technologies. You will find virtually no references to the amount of energy required to build and maintain the systems. This is curious, since the net energy production is one of the major figures of merit by which the systems should be measured.A cursory review of the idea is given here: Why would the energy required to build and run these alternative systems be buried so deeply in the literature? Because they don't work. That's why. You want a link or a reference to a publication that shows the energy in and the energy out of a solar or wind system. You can't find them. My assertion is based upon my own work and that of University physics classes which do this as a class projects. They are unpublished and not very accurate, but the results are clear. It ain't even close. 10% errors in analysis here and there are not enough to counter the really bad technology of unreliable alternative energy sources.The fact that the term "energy budget" means the amount of $ spent and received for energy is a tipoff. Money can be subsidized, energy cannot. My complaint about the above system is that it probably does not include such an energy budget. That is, I'll bet the students and the teacher probably don't know how much energy was used to build, install, and maintain the units they are running.Neither energy source can be stored. Thus, the energy produced by solar or wind must be used to allow a reduction in fossil fuel generators. But these fossil fuel generators must be in place. That is, they must be available at night and when the wind doesn't blow. Redundant generators are energy expensive.In summary, I can't evaluate the Shawnee Mission system because it is not given. Kansas City is not the best place to put either a wind or solar energy system. If the intent is to teach students, then the lesson should be that the joules don't add up. If the next step is to look at ways to make their system energy effective then fine, but good luck. It ain't goin' to be easy and probably beyond the scope of a high school science class.

compmd 9 years, 5 months ago

devobrun,As someone who has spent a decent portion of his engineering career designing and testing alternative energy systems (mostly wind energy), I hereby slap you with one of my gloves and declare, "citation needed."Centerville,You don't understand how a wind energy system works. In reality, you don't power any device directly off a turbine. The power is used to charge batteries. A load is then placed on the batteries.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 5 months ago

What you are talking about, devobrun, is externalized costs. And it is precisely those types of costs that are rarely calculated for fossil fuels and nuclear power.I'm all for calculating in all of those costs, even for wind and solar, but if the same isn't done for the more traditional energy sources, it's intellectual dishonesty.

devobrun 9 years, 5 months ago

Bozo: I'm actually not siting monetary costs at all.I'm referring to energy budgets.Energy in, energy out. Not money. Money can be fudged.I shouldn't have to justify my skepticism regarding the energy budget for these high school systems. Mr Doug Moles should.He is the one with the data.He is the one who should account for the energy used to build and operate the systems and show that they are a net producer on energy. Compnd, I am skeptical. You provide me with an energy budget.How much energy is needed to build a windmill system. Blades, tower, generator, power inverter, foundation, backup generator from a reliable source, manpower using big yellow machines to build the access roads, dig the holes, extra power lines...............all measured in joules. You know, newton-meters, kg-meter squared per second squared. Not money. Joules.As far as fossil fuel goes, if Exxon cannot pull more oil out of a hole in the ground than it spends on drilling and pumping the oil, it won't bother. If the price of oil goes up, Exxon's energy costs go up. Each well, each pipeline, each technology to recover oil must be energy efficient. If not they don't do it.Over the long haul, the energy used to recover coal, methane, and oil must be a net positive, otherwise the system would have run down like a watch running out of spring.Are we running out of carbon-based energy? well, it won't be for a long time. How long? Big argument. Opens a whole new can of worms. Lets not get sidetracked.

devobrun 9 years, 5 months ago

Bozo: Let me refine my answer to you. An energy balance is done for every fossil fuel. If oil in the form of tar costs more (in joules) than they can get from the tar sands, they don't bother. Ditto for any other fossil fuel.The monetary subsidies are almost entirely a result of political problems, not energy problems. The only problems Exxon has are:Environmentalists who hate them and will stop at nothing to find a way to stop them. (see demonizing CO2)Tyrants running countries that play a political game to maintain power and wealth without over-taxing the oil companies. (see Venezuela)Pirates. (see Somalia)People in Nigeria who blow up pipelines in order to disrupt a corrupt political system. Corrupt political systems everywhere. In fact, I think that those two words are redundant. (see Chicago)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 5 months ago

"Bozo: I'm actually not siting monetary costs at all.I'm referring to energy budgets.Energy in, energy out. Not money. Money can be fudged."If you're going to be honest in such analyses, measure all of the energy involved, not just the energy it takes to mine, refine, distribute and consume it. Each one of these steps has very major side effects, mostly environmental, which would take great amounts of energy to deal with-- if we deal with them, and historically, we haven't, and still don't."The only problems Exxon has are:Environmentalists who hate them and will stop at nothing to find a way to stop them. (see demonizing CO2)"There you go with your sacred orthodoxies again.

kansasplains 9 years, 5 months ago

As usual, the posts from certain people are disgusting, to say the least. First of all, this is a plan to show how solar energy works. Costs will change over time. I am just disgusted at some of these people-they will say no to anything. This is a really important project for this school. Lawrence should have the same projects at every one of their schools! Eventually, when coupled with research and the internet, who knows where it will lead? As a matter of fact, these projects should be all over Kansas!

RedwoodCoast 9 years, 5 months ago

Devo: What is the projected lifespan of energy-generating wind and solar units? You always bring up the amount of energy that alternative-energies require for manufacture. "The energy required to design, build, and maintain the solar and wind electrical power generators exceed the amount of energy that will ever be produced by the units."So I guess I'm wondering what will happen if we follow your ostensible suggestion and scrap these technologies. What happens in 100 or so years when fossil fuels become less abundant and more difficult to extract and process? What happens when China decides it needs fossil fuels more than we do? What happens when we have to start invading other countries and killing people to ensure our supply of energy?I guess what I'm getting at is that you sound as if we should just forget about alternative energy sources in favor of continuing the use of fossil fuels. I personally fail to see how that is a feasible policy in the long run. Maybe it will work while you're alive, but what happens in 100+ years? Cheer up, dude.

devobrun 9 years, 5 months ago

Same ole story, Bozo. I'm talking energy budgets and you find ways to steer the subject into ill-defined avenues. Environmental cleanup included in an energy budget is a tricky one. Hard to quantify. Hard to even define. What constitutes "pollution"?Pollution is defined as any byproduct of a process that is economically sound. That is, if a process is beneficial to a capitalist, then it must be taxed to provide for remediation. Remediation of what?Oil companies have done an amazing job of producing energy with an ever decreasing footprint in all areas except CO2 and H2O. So, make CO2 evil. Even though it isn't. How much byproduct pollution will have to be mitigated to produce these windmills and solar panels.30 years ago I taught a lab at KU where we made semiconductor diodes and transistors. 500 degree c ovens, gases that contained arsenic, boron,etc. Solvents and plastic material and the best......lots of hydrofluoric acid.Ignore those ancillary environmental problems, they make "kansasplains" disgusted.Oh, Kansasplains, I might suggest that the fossil fuel required to build the items at the SMW school is energy that will never be recovered from them. The article says straight up that this is for demo purposed only. "Because the solar panels and turbine are working models, they have no significant impact on the school or surrounding areas".If the intent is to show students that solar and wind are not capable of sustaining themselves, then they have succeeded. The energy produced is not significant. The monetary cost was funded by somebody who had no intention of recouping their money. In short, Mr. Moles is showing students how to promulgate a scam. Fits right in with the last energy scam: corn-based ethanol. Corn-based ethanol produces less energy than it takes to make it. Monetary subsidies have been used to justify it, but people are finally waking to the fact that it just doesn't make it. Couple the less than unity efficiency with other environmental trauma (nitrogen runoff) and even the wackos who value feelings over reason have to admit that it doesn't work. How much lost time and money will be wasted on SMW-type projects until engineers can finally do their work?

The_Voice_of_Reason 9 years, 5 months ago

I would argue that since the life expectancy of most wind turbines and solar arrays is on the order of 15 to 20 years (baring damaging weather and the like). That these technologies are very much a net producer of energy. 1 Joule (J) = 1 watt second (Ws), Joules being a measure of energy, watts, either W secs, W hrs, or KW hrs, being a measure of power, or energy in time. Now depending on the size of the turbine or array that this school is putting up, usually measured in KW hrs, would be the main determining factor of how long the system would take to become net positive in joules expended and joules produced. Now I'd have to sit down and crunch many a number to figure out when these devices became net producers, but I find it very VERY hard to believe that over the course of 15 to 20 years these devices never become net producers of energy....

devobrun 9 years, 5 months ago

Redwood: I am suggesting that we understand that there is a difference between school-based science and engineering.The distinction has been lost somewhere along the way. Energy systems are engineering systems, not science. Engineering systems must work. Science demos only have to show how one might.......But when science overrides engineering, you get corn-based ethanol. Doesn't work. You get SMW solar panels and windmills that will not work. You get a blurred picture of how engineering is done. An engineer would not install any gadget that doesn't work. On an energy basis, the windmill and solar panel are almost guaranteed to not produce more energy than it took to build them.----------------------So here is what I am advocating. Conduct research into alternative energy systems. Do not implement them until laboratory experiments work, followed by pilot plant operation that works, followed by small scale production that works. Then open the flood gates for investment. If any alternative energy system meets the above criteria to supplant fossil fuel, then I'll sell all my Exxon stock and invest heavily. Until then, I remain skeptical. "Works" is defined as able to supply a force over distance greater than the force over distance required to build the system in the first place.Force over distance is more properly defined as the dot product of a force vector and a displacement vector. This is known as work and has the same units as energy. In fact, work is the action version of energy. Energy does work, work changes energy.

The_Voice_of_Reason 9 years, 5 months ago

I believe what your advocating is that the vast majority of energy scientists and engineers have gotten this whole multi-billion dollar industry ALL wrong? Remember scientists conduct the science so engineers can design workable systems. I don't mean to degrade your knowledge but I'd put my money on the thousands of engineers already designing and working on these systems, not a few nay sayers on a few websites.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 5 months ago

There is a distinction between pure science and engineering, devo, but at the high school level, no one is doing pure science, and no one is doing pure engineering. This project was a good one for anyone going into a pure science, pure engineering, or any of a number of other disciplines.

devobrun 9 years, 5 months ago

The airplane was developed by the Wrights and then science explained how it worked.Edison used mostly engineering methods and had only a passing interest in anything scientific.Turing and Von Neuman provided little input to Claude Shannon when he applied the work of George Boole to the switching problem at Bell Labs. Result of math and engineering, computers. Usually engineering happens first and science comes along and helps refine the otherwise working system.Motto: Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.The first wheel was probably not very good.The first windmill was probably not very good.I could go on, but the point is that things work first, then are made better by better understanding that comes from experience and the science narrative.Modern science is overwrought. It relies on too many computer models and too little test. The demand to test and the demand to converge on solutions is lost in a morass of politics, hype and media plays.My objection to the science being taught at SMW derived from the above article is that it apparently discounts the overarching metric for any of these technologies. Does it work? The bottom line is education intended to produce hard-edged engineers who require results that will solve a problem, not just wave at it.Voice of reason: What engineers in what documentation say that wind or solar can replace coal? Not businessmen, not scientists, not media savvy PR folks. Give me a design for an alternative to coal and I'll read it and believe you. I have found no such system. I am a member of the IEEE. Recent advances in exotic semiconductors may provide an answer to solar cell energy cost of production problems. Energy storage remains quite limited. Can this be solved? Maybe, but in the mean time, cool yer jets folks. None of this is ready for prime time.These things aren't new either. Betz computed the maximum efficiency from a windmill over 100 years ago. Solar cells have been around for over 50 years. Batteries? Ford and Edison lost millions trying to replace the gasoline engine with electricity back in the 20s.I am not saying quit.I am saying that dumping money on to technologies that don't work prematurely is a time honored way to loose money. Most recently corn-based ethanol. You guys are setting yourselves up to be taken to the cleaners. The answer is teaching high school students to ask difficult questions, like demanding an energy budget. It really is a simple question. One that any high schooler with a physics class should understand. What's the answer Mr. Moles?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 5 months ago

"The answer is teaching high school students to ask difficult questions, like demanding an energy budget."Except when it's an energy source is one you favor, in which case, the list of allowable questions will be quite limited.

devobrun 9 years, 5 months ago

Bozo, my list includes technologies that are proven performers. It includes coal, oil, and natural gas. It includes nuclear, and hydro. It includes solar and wind where attachment to the electric power grid is impractical ( like on the top of a big mountain or out in space).None of these technologies are free from issues that diminish their effectiveness. However, even when all the problems are considered, the only problem that remains significant with fossil fuels is CO2.CO2 effect on the earth's energy budget is minimal. Feedback effects are required in computer models to boost the effect of CO2. Thus, the overwrought science of computer modeling of the atmosphere produces the desired effect.....shut down fossil fuels.CO2-caused climate change predictions by the IPCC are stupid, Tumbleweed. GM is counting on you being stupid. They see how well advertising has swayed the minds of the world to irrational fear of CO2 and figure their only response is to put a green border around their adverts. Indeed, all advertising counts on you being stupid. Loyalty cards, frequent flyer miles, on and on and on, the American public buys into advertising. You guys are buying into IPCC advertising. Science has been co opted by public relations people at all the large science institutions, information is judiciously leaked to popular press, inflaming ire and hope.And they got ya. You bought the fear and they have the solution.....I worked for an institution located between Ann Arbor and Detroit called Willow Run Labs. They were doing research for DOD that involved all kind of things, including energy and remote sensing. Most of the projects were military driven. They were blown up by radical students. People died. They changed their name to Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM). They were still doing the same thing, but the fuzzy-heads were stupid. They are still doing the same thing, but are now CO2 research driven. They have the same mentality, they are in it for a buck. And they won't get bombed by SDS.

tolawdjk 9 years, 5 months ago

Devobrun, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Godot 9 years, 5 months ago

Yes, but can these students read and do math? I doubt it.

Paul Decelles 9 years, 5 months ago

Devo raises some useful issues about the relative costs and benefits of wind power and he is right that wind power advocates do not always look at the complete life cycle costs. A big issue indeed are the indirect costs, but if one is going to account for these in regards to wind power then you ought to account for them for the alternatives.A case in point is the Cape Wind project of Nantucket mentioned in the first article cited by Devo. The Beacon Hill Institute in MA concludes that this wind farm project's benefits do not out weigh the costs. Beacon Hill gives a very useful breakdown of the costs and benefits of the project and concludes that over the life time of the project the project will lead to costs of roughly 947 million dollars but the projected benefits are only 735 million dollars. big proportion of the savings is accounted for by direct savings in the cost of fossil fuels. However the Beacon Hill Study fails to include most of the indirect costs of using fossil fuels. These indirect costs appear to be substantial:See: oiland: coal.I don't frankly know how accurate the estimates cited in these articles are, but hopefully they convince at least some people that if you are going to do cost-benefit analysis that you are properly capturing indirect costs all the way around, not just for one alternative.Also, remember Cape Wind wind is a large and controversial project and conclusions drawn about it in the context of the mix of energy sources in New England, may not apply elsewhere and for differently scaled uses of wind generated power.

lounger 9 years, 5 months ago

Things will change in time. All of you doubters will be long gone when these kids are all grown. And at that time progressive energy will be the norm-not your worn out old doubting crusty attitudes!! Bravo Kids look to the future. Dont listen to these people that want to hold you back. The future belongs to YOU!!

The_Voice_of_Reason 9 years, 5 months ago

Devo, I'm not advocating that wind and solar will be replacing all fossil fuels anytime soon. It's going to take something much MUCH more scaleable than those things to solve the worlds energy needs. I'm just disagreeing with you when you say these technologies are net zero or worse on their manufacture and upkeep carbon costs. And since any article or website I provide will be discredited by what you believe (not an insult, that’s what I’d do) we'll have to call this a draw based on a matter of opinion. But I most definitely agree with you on the corn ethanol issue. To me it's nothing but a waste of time, money and perfectly good food. In my opinion, algae is where the bio-fuel companies need to start looking harder.

compmd 9 years, 5 months ago

devo, you surprised me. Your 5:28pm post is actually quite insightful. Betz efficiency aside, many generator manufacturers do not, in fact, sell generators with a scientifically determined power curve, nor have they determined at what rotational speed the generator is most efficient. The engineering costs to do this are non-trivial, but in the end having this data would put the most appropriate generators into users' hands. I do not buy that it takes more energy to produce a generator than you will ever get out of it. Consider a 3.5MW turbine. Now consider that it will function for probably 20 years. That is a lot of energy. You seem to share my belief that we should be optimizing what we have instead of trying to go raving mad over new technologies (like solar) that are imperfect, inefficient, or impractical. Nobody can afford to make giant leaps in power generation technology right now.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 5 months ago

"Bozo, my list includes technologies that are proven performers. It includes coal, oil, and natural gas."All of which have costs (mostly environmental about which you are in a state of denial) which have historically been externalized. Continuing to externalize those costs is not an honest way to go about a comprehensive energy audit.

Bill Griffith 9 years, 5 months ago

Here are some helpful links on Energy Payback Time (EPBT) for utility-scale wind and photovoltaics. Utility-scale wind takes about 3 to 8 months to pay back the energy invested in total construction. Photovoltaics has more wiggle room but in general does not go above 10% of the total energy invested in creating it-also the newer panels are much less energy intensive. For wind check out and then click "wind energy potential" and scroll to "What is the energy payback time for a wind turbine. For photovoltaics go to Folks on this discussion who intuitively surmised that thousands of enngineers and scientists would not dedicate their careers to these energy sources if the payback was not justified are correct.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 5 months ago

"Nobody can afford to make giant leaps in power generation technology right now."That determination can only be made if all of the true costs of our current systems are calculated.

zzgoeb 9 years, 5 months ago

Devobrun proves others points...he's wasting serious energy by continuing to argue feabily many "hidden" costs exist in the use of the computer, in the heated and lighted house?All the hairsplitting by others on the cost of alternative is the current coal-backed system hasn't cost us in so many ways? Just look at the TVA in the news now!To argue we can't try something new is very old school...and just plain greed-headed!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.