An Air Of Accomplishment
Planning Pays Off As Turbine Installed At Thomas Harrison Middle School
Posted: November 24, 2012
Workers with Baker Renewable Energy attach a strap to the 55-foot wind turbine being installed with a crane from Cave Hill at Thomas Harrison Middle School on Tuesday. (Photos by Nikki Fox)
THMS Principal Don Vale (right) stands with students as they applaud the installation of the school’s new wind turbine on Tuesday afternoon.
Workers with Baker Renewable Energy secure the 55-foot wind turbine to its concrete base at THMS Tuesday. The turbine was installed at the Harrisonburg school through the Wind for Schools program run through the U.S. Department of Energy.
A crane from Cave Hill lifts a 55-foot wind turbine into the air for installation at Thomas Harrison Middle School ON Tuesday.
About 2½ years have passed since the THMS Ecology Club began researching wind turbines, and more than a year has passed since the Harrisonburg City School Board and City Council gave their OK to allow one to be installed at the west-side school.
So, on Tuesday, as a crane lifted and placed the tower and 170-pound turbine onto its foundation, the hoots and hollers that came from the onlookers were accompanied by sighs of relief from planners.
“We’ve been saying ‘soon’ a lot,” said Jon DeVier-Scott, a science teacher at THMS who leads the Ecology Club along with his wife, Mary DeVier-Scott, a history teacher at the school.
“When I saw them dig the foundation in early October, I finally realized this [was] going to happen,” he said.
The turbine was installed through Wind for Schools, a federal program. Run through the U.S. Department of Energy, the program’s aim is to prepare students for careers in wind energy and educate students and community members about its benefits.
James Madison University’s Virginia Center for Wind Energy is leading similar turbine installations at schools across Virginia.
THMS, which will host a formal dedication ceremony in early December, is the fourth school to install one in the state.
A $14,500 grant from pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. paid for the turbine, tower and foundation. The estimated cost for the entire project, including donated labor, was about $20,000.
The school’s Ecology Club and Parent Teacher Organization also raised money and businesses — including Rockingham Redi-Mix, Mid Valley Electric, Maust Enterprises of Virginia, Valley Building Supply and Cave Hill Corp. — donated time and labor to install the project, organizers said.
Baker Renewable Energy oversaw the entire installation.
LD&B Insurance Agency Inc. in Harrisonburg also made a $1,000 donation.
The turbine and its 6-foot-long blades atop a 55-foot tower — now visible from West Market Street — is expected to power one of the school’s classrooms.
“I’m really excited just to drive by and see it up and know that we made a difference and we actually did something in our middle school time,” said Genevieve Cowardin, 13, a member of the Ecology Club.
Fellow club member Naomi Gelberg-Hagmaier, 12, added: “Hard work pays off.”
Because students begin learning about energy at the middle school level, Jon DeVier-Scott said the turbine, more than anything, provides a valuable learning opportunity.
“It’s an outdoor classroom,” he said.
Data collected from the turbine about how much energy is being produced will be woven into curriculum in the school’s science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, academy, according to Greg Corder, who runs the academy.
Other projects with connections to energy or the turbine will be pursued, according to administrators, including making model turbines in the classroom for a competition called the KidWind Turbine Challenge.
This year’s state turbine challenge will be held at THMS in March, giving students a chance to progress to the national competition.
“We’re going to try to integrate it into all the curriculum,” said Assistant Principal Daniel Kirwan.
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