Saturday, January 4, 2014

Investigating Energy

During a school field trip to the Spruce Knob Mountain Center in autumn, 6th-graders sketched their ideas with chalk on a blackboard. Some drew trampolines built into bridges, which, they explained to their peers, could store kinetic energy from bouncing pedestrians in generators. Others imagined capturing stars from outer space in portable containers, as personal energy providers. Another group designed people-sized hamster wheels for use in office settings, allowing workers to both exercise and feed the grid. Their prompt was to create sources of alternative energy, and the students rose creatively to the occasion. While some ideas may sound more far-fetched than others, many of them may only need a little tweaking. Compare their ideas with the The New York Times'  piece on alternative energy ideas at their website.

The 6th graders were at Spruce Knob to investigate stream health through the Appalachian Watershed Monitoring (AWSM) program, and also to think about energy and its role in their life and impact on the environment. As energy travels through the supply chain to the consumer, its origin becomes obscure until there is little apparent relationship between raw materials such as coal, wind, water, lumber or natural gas and the motion of a washing machine or the start of a motor engine. During the summer of last year, the Mountain Institute built a collection of solar panels in its backyard at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center, with help from a grant with the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation and the donation of an extra panel by the installers, Mountain View Solar of Berkeley Springs, WV. You can read more about solar power on Spruce Mountain in the most recent addition of our newsletter, page 3.    
Morgantown High students debate energy consumption in the United States.
The solar array at Spruce Knob demonstrates the possibility of backyard energy production. Solar energy has become much more affordable in the past couple of years, and an article at claims that solar energy has hit grid parity with coal:
"In February, a southwestern utility, agreed to purchase electricity from a New Mexico solar project for less than the going rate for a new coal plant. Unsubsidized solar power reached grid parity in countries such as Italy and India. And solar installations have boomed worldwide and here in America, as the lower module costs have driven down installation prices."
Another focus of our education is on using energy efficiently in our homes; turning off water and lights. As this article in the Atlantic points out, energy-efficient appliances won't do much to change energy consumption in the United States unless our energy habits change. At the Spruce Knob Mountain Center, a chain which could eventually lead to a student developing more sustainable energy solutions begins with a tour of the solar panels on top of our office.

1 comment:

Portable Gensets said...

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