A key element was missing from most of Tuesday’s “Energizing Education” ceremony celebrating Tuscarora School District’s wind turbine.
Donors and school officials peered up at the 55-foot-high pole several times in hopes of seeing the blades spin. As they wrapped up the ceremony touting the turbine’s educational and environmental benefits, a breeze picked up and produced the desired effect.
The sight of spinning blades is one enjoyed by James Buchanan High School senior Blake Mowen.
“It’s so exciting to see the thing work,” he said.
The district’s turbine project was conducted with the Pennsylvania Wind for Schools program operated by Penn State University. Other donors and supporters were TE Connectivity Foundation, West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund, Tuscarora Education Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Those contributions covered the $23,000 cost of the Skystream turbine and its installation.
Zane Fitzsimmons, a freshman, picked up one of the blades before the turbine was installed.
“It was actually pretty light,” he said.
Students can track the turbine’s power production through a computer system. That information might be made available to everyone in the district soon.
“I think it’ll be cool to see it pay for itself,” said Ian Hanna, a freshman.
About 3.5 percent of the nation’s energy is generated from wind, according to Susan Stewart from the Pennsylvania Wind for Schools program.
“Wind energy is a very exciting thing to study,” she said.
Blake agreed, saying it is “awe-inspiring” to see the turbine now after observing the design process.
Previously, students only saw pictures of wind turbines in books and PowerPoint presentations, teacher William Brooks said.
“It really brings everything to life for them,” Brooks said.
“I’m not bored (anymore). I’m happy,” said Blake, who wants to study aerospace engineering through the U.S. Air Force.
James Buchanan Middle School teacher Michelle Rhodes said sixth-graders talk about alternative energy.
Eighth-graders dive deeper into the subject and experiment with blade design.
Classes that study the wind turbine at the high school include introduction to engineering, principles of engineering and aerospace engineering.
“This kind of project has a deeper impact than anyone can imagine,” said Charles Prijatelj, district superintendent.
Not far from the wind turbine are the school district’s solar panels.