Driving across the Midwest, one might pass through fields of corn, soy and cattle. But there is one more crop sweeping the nation: wind turbines. Wind turbines work the opposite way that a ceiling fan might work. Instead of using electricity to create wind, wind is harnessed to make electricity. Wind turbines come in all shapes and sizes, and are used for many different purposes.
Outside of Waukee Middle School, commonly referred to as North Middle School, a small wind turbine stands erect. The IWEA informed, “These are used for homes, telecommunications dishes, or water pumping. Small turbines are sometimes used in connection with diesel generators, batteries, and photovoltaic systems.” Waukee High School installed this 90 foot turbine in 2011 with a $50,000 grant from Pepsi.
Though Waukee High School was awarded this turbine from Pepsi, it only runs part-time. This turbine has a startup speed of 8 MPH. This means the wind has to be blowing at least 8 MPH to turn the blades. Waukee’s turbine also has a cut speed of 55 MPH. This means the blade will not blow if winds are stronger than 55 MPH.
Director of operations for Waukee High School, Keith Elmquist explained why the turbine only works at specific times. “[There are] two reasons. One is wind speed; two is mechanical and electrical failures.” Elmquist also commented, “[WHS has made] $0 at this time. We have had two failures that were not covered under warranty. The first, mice chewed on the electrical harness and created an electrical short; repairs costed $1,616.27. The second incident was a lightning strike in September of 2011. Insurance covered all, but [the] deductible was $2000.”
Waukee High School students were pushed to go and vote everyday on the Pepsi website in order to win this $50,000 wind turbine, yet WHS has made no profit in the five years this turbine has been in place. Most students do not even know why it exists.
When asked if the turbine has provided anything beneficial to WHS, Elmquist quoted, “[The turbine has provided] education and awareness about wind energy.” Many students disagree with this statement. Victoria Dicks, a junior at WHS commented, “I do not know how we got the wind turbine and it definitely has not taught me anything about conservation directly.” Fellow junior Brenna Schettler agreed with Dicks’ statement, “Our teachers have never really taught us about it.” Junior Kellan Prendergast commented, “ I had no idea the school had, or used turbines. I remember seeing wind turbines from on a road trip but I don’t believe they were moving at the time. I’ve only seen them move in like videos and such. I was never informed that the school used resources to conserve energy.” These statements contradict the benefits the wind turbine supposedly bring to WHS.
Junior Nicolas Matamoras and senior Logan Lovell disagree with the statements above. Lovell stated, “I took Environmental Ecology, so I learned a lot about alternative sources of energy and at one point we even discussed the school’s turbine.” Matamoras stated, “The school has given us the opportunity to learn about energy conservation and awareness through classes like Environmental Ecology; but if you do not know and investigate into learning about it, you won’t find it.”
WHS supporters spent time and effort asking the student body to vote for this $50,000 Pepsi grant. Five years later, some students don’t know that the school even has a turbine, let alone how it works. The turbine has turned out no profit, and has not resulted in any energy conservation for the school. Many students are uninformed of energy conservation and awareness, unless specifically informed by a class curriculum. Was the Pepsi challenge worth it, or could the money have been used for a more efficient cause?