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KidWind holds workshop at SWCC

Published: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 7:37 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 2:05 p.m. CST

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Teachers from the southwestern area of Iowa met at Southwestern Community College Dec. 4 for a workshop on renewable wind energy.

KidWind, the project that held the workshop, is an international company that engages teachers and students in learning about clean energy.

KidWind was founded in 2002 in California by Michael Arquin. Over the course of a decade, the project went international and, according to the KidWind website, "our data shows that we have helped teachers and students build over 50,000 experimental wind turbines."

Joe Rand, a KidWind "WindSenator," conducted the workshop at SWCC.

"I wanted to look at what are some positive steps against climate change," said Rand, who studied the topic in college, as well as social issues related to it. "I think the renewable energies were providing positive options. Wind energy seems to be the most economically viable."

A wind turbine converts kinectic energy in the form of air into mechanical energy through the moving turbine blades and drive shaft and into usable electrical energy in the generator. The electrical generator consists of magnet and copper wire, which generates an electric current.

KidWind is trying to transition communities into a clean energy future by reducing a reliance on fossil fuels.

"Fossil fuels and other pollutants, all of these things have very negative consequences on human health and environmental health," said Rand. "(We're) looking for solutions and looking for ways to transition to a more sustainable future."

"Over the eight to 10 years that KidWind has really been around we've trained over 8,000 teachers," said Rand. "So what that means, we estimate that each teacher works wtith 50-75 students every year ... through the workshops we've done and through the curriculum that's free on our website, through the kits that we've distributed on our website, we think we've impacted over 800,000 students. We've made 800,000 students a little bit smarter."

Features of the website include "Learn about Wind," "Teacher Resources," "Workshops and Events," "Challenges," and "Science Kit Store." These features are part of the overall project that produces parts for small wind turbines, PowerPoints and free school curriculum.

"KidWind has a very long-term focus," said Rand. "In the short term, we've made a lot of people a little bit smarter, but in the long term, they'll be the changemakers in the coming years. Voting, support renewable energy, they'll go on to be the engineers and scientists needed."

In March there will be a student competition held at SWCC. The students will bring their wind turbines and compete against other students from the area.

For more information on KidWind, please visit their website at learn.kidwind.org.

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Info Box: Wind Energy Tax Credit

Currently, there is a 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour production tax credit for wind energy in Iowa. However, according to the Des Moines Register Nov. 28, "the credit – which (U.S. Sen. Chuck) Grassley helped create in the early 1990s – subsidizes the generation of wind power and is seen as critical to continued growth in the industry, but is scheduled to expire at the end of the year."

"In a nutshell I think wind energy could be competitive with fossil fuels with tax credit," Rand said. "Fossil fuels are subsidized in the U.S. also ... I think the production tax credit is great for wind power ... (but) more important than the producion tax credit, we need a more consistent policy."

According to the Iowa Wind Energy Association website, Iowa produces 20 percent of all the electricity generated in the state from wind turbines, ranking it first in the nation and second in the world.

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