Earth Day lessons in the wind

Sager Middle School adds a residential-scale wind turbine, which will be used for education and power.

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John Sager Middle School students Brandon Tewell, left, Juan Zamora, Diego Palacios,Isis Acosta, Jose Aguirre and Dylan Board break ground for a wind energy turbine erected at the school Wednesday, just in time for Earth Day.(April 20, 2010)

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As students and staff watch, Bob Venera and his brother, Steve Venera, of Central Wind and Solar attach the blade assembly to the wind turbine erected Wednesday at John Sager Middle School in College Place. (April 21, 2010)

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Steve Venera of Central Wind and Solar bolts down the nearly-erected wind turbine put up Wednesday at John Sager Middle School in College Place. The turbine will be used to help teach the potential and limits of how power can be generated from renewable resources.(April 21, 2010)

COLLEGE PLACE -- One of the Earth Day activities at John Sager Middle School will be in the wind today, literally.

The school is now the site for a residential-scale wind turbine capable of generating up to two kilowatts of electricity. As students and staff watched Wednesday, the 45-foot tall tower was tipped into place and bolted down by Bob and Steve Venera of Central Wind and Solar company.

Although it will help the school conserve electricity, the turbine's primary purpose will be as an educational tool for students studying renewable energy sources, said science teacher Darin Durand.

The final piece fell into place Monday night when the City Council approved the conditional use permit for the wind turbine. A group of Durand's students broke ground for the project on Tuesday and the tower was installed Wednesday.

The project was funded by a $20,000 Educational Renewable Energy Grant obtained through the Bonneville Power Administration by Columbia Rural Electric Association, said Scott Peters, Columbia REA manager of marketing and member services.

Durand said he approached the electric cooperative after Columbia REA helped Rogers Adventist School obtain funding for a similar wind energy turbine erected at the school last year.

The plan wasn't to have the turbine up in time for Earth Day, it just worked out that way, Durand said. "We started talking about it last summer, but had to go through a lot of paperwork before we could put it up," he said.

The Sager school turbine is the third residential-scale wind generator put up by Central Wind and Solar in the area, said Bob Venera. The third turbine is located at a private residence.

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