Wind Energy: A Real Alternative?

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will analyze whether wind energy is feasible. The lesson will have the students explore the following: How is wind used to create electricity? How much does wind energy cost? Analyzing the average wind velocity in their area with the aid of an online calculator, can typical homeowners create their own energy, or do they have to rely only on large utility companies to provide it?

Grade Level

Grades 6-8 (middle school). This lesson can be easily be modified for grades 9-12 (secondary school) by examining each of the above topics in more detail.

Time Required

Teachers should be able to conduct the lesson in one or two classes (depending on the activities chosen).

Curriculum Connection (Province and course)

Saskatchewan: Grade 6 Social Studies

·         Interdependence: Links between People and the Environment (utilizing renewable and nonrenewable resources has far reaching consequences which impact both on humans and the environment.)

Saskatchewan: Grade 7 Social Studies

·         Resources: Societies use resources, both renewable and non-renewable, to satisfy their needs and wants.

Link to the Canadian Atlas Online (CAOL)

www.canadiangeographic.ca/wind

Additional Resources, Materials and Equipment Required

  • Student Activity Sheet: “Why is Wind Energy Important?”
  • Student Activity Sheet: “How a Wind Turbine Works”
  • Wind Energy Presentation Rubric

Below are additional websites with information about wind power in Saskatchewan:

 

Main Objective

Students will examine wind power as an alternative source of electricity utilizing a renewable resource. They will examine samples of current wind farms which use large, expensive turbines to produce energy for the electrical grid, usually owned and controlled by a public utility, such as SaskPower. Each student will have the opportunity to examine the feasibility of using small wind power as an alternative to purchasing power from the grid.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Research and explain how wind is utilized to produce electricity as a renewable resource, as opposed to using non-renewable resources, such as coal or oil.
  • Briefly outline the benefits of wind energy for the residents of Saskatchewan
  • Calculate the feasibility of producing electricity from a small wind turbine in their own community.
  • Extension: Briefly describe the extent to which SaskPower utilizes wind power within the province of Saskatchewan and exploring similar projects in other provinces

The Lesson

The Lesson

 

Teacher Activity

Student Activity

Introduction

How will the lesson open?

Ask: “How important is electricity in our lives?”

Create master list of objects that use electricity from student responses. Have students add objects mentioned to their lists.

Point out how much we depend on electricity in our everyday lives. Thus producing electricity is very important in our society.

 

Working alone or in pairs have students brainstorm and list everyday objects that use electricity (from plugged-in sources as opposed to battery operated). Time limit: one minute!

Lesson Development

How will the lesson develop?

 

Introduce the concept of electricity production from burning fossil fuels or using nuclear power. Ask: “What problems are faced or created from these processes?” Record student responses.

Emphasize the need to reduce our energy consumption as a starting point to understanding the role of renewable energy sources.

Introduce the importance of using renewable resources (such as wind) to produce energy (clean, readily accessible, long-term supply, etc).  

Hand out the information sheet on “Why is Wind Energy Important?” Read together as a class or within their groups. Have students answer the questions at the bottom of the sheet. Emphasize the advantages and disadvantages section.

Use the handout “How a Wind Turbine Works” to introduce what a wind turbine is and how it produces electricity. The supply of wind is vital to being able to use a turbine.

Group activity: With a data projector calculate the number and size of turbines needed by your school. Go to:  http://www.smallwindenergy.ca/calculator/home.php. Follow the instructions to get the results of the calculator (you will need your school’s postal code and average monthly utility costs). Go to http://www.windatlas.ca/en/maps.php to get a detailed map of your area – use the zoom tool to see a larger version of the map. (Students can use this for their individual homes as well). Follow up with an example of a school which has installed its own wind farm to produce electricity in Spirit Lake, Iowa (see website under resources).

In groups of two or three have students brainstorm problems faced/created by burning fossil fuels (pollution, fluctuation in fuel prices, limited supply, transporting the fuel, etc.)

 

 

Read “Why is Wind Energy Important?” handout and answer the questions.

Conclusion

 

Having students, working as a team, create a short creative presentation on why using renewable resources (such as wind energy) is better than depending on fossil fuels or nuclear power. This can be done as a skit, poster, collage or audio-visual presentation.

 

 

Lesson Extension

Students can explore the various forms of renewable energy sources to compare their costs with wind power. Have them develop a compare/contrast chart with at least one other type of energy creation to show how wind power ranks against it.

 

Assessment of Student Learning

The concluding presentation must include elements found in the “Wind Energy Presentation Rubric.”

Link to Canadian National Standards for Geography

Essential Element #2 – Places and Regions

·   Physical and human characteristics of places and regions in Canada and the world.

Essential Element #3 – Physical Regions

·   Global patterns of wind and water

Essential Element #5 Environment and Society

·   Limits and opportunities of the physical environment for human activities.

·   Changes in the importance of energy resources.

Geographic Skill #2 - Acquiring Geographic information

·   Use maps to collect and/or compile geographic information.

Geographic Skill #3 - Organizing Geographic information

·   Integrate various types of materials to organize geographic information.

Geographic Skill #5 – Answering Geographic Questions

·   Develop and present combinations of geographic information to answer geographic questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STUDENT ACTIVITY SHEET

Why is Wind Energy Important?

 

We use large amounts of energy every year. Canadians use more energy per capita than any other group of people on the Earth. We should be concerned about the sources of our electricity. Burning coal or oil to make electricity creates a large amount of pollution. Energy from a nuclear power plant raises issues about what will happen to the radioactive waste materials.

More and more Canadians want to get their energy from renewable sources, such as solar, water and wind power.

 

Fast Growing

The International Energy Agency estimates that as of 2001 all renewable energy sources (hydro/water, solar, combustible wastes and waste renewables, geothermal and wind) comprised 13.8% of the world’s energy supply. Of that, only 0.0026% was wind power.

Wind power, though a very small percentage, is one of the fastest growing methods of all electricity production. Since 1971 energy from renewable resources has grown only 2% per year, while wind production has grown on the average 52.1%!

Advantages of Wind Energy

  • Wind energy is free.
  • It is a renewable energy resource.
  • There is no pollution produced.
  • Wind power can be used in remote areas far away from other sources of electricity.
  • Wind power can be produced along with other renewable energy resources such as solar energy.

 

Disadvantages of Wind Energy

  • Wind turbines need a regular, reliable source of wind.
  • Wind speed changes. If the wind speed is too fast or slow then electricity is not produced.
  • When the wind does not blow electricity is not produced.
  • Wind farms have many large windmills that stand up to 10 times taller than most houses, which many people do not like to see and they may create a steady swishing noise which annoys people living nearby.
  • Wind turbines are very expensive to buy and maintain.
  • There needs to be some form of energy storage, like batteries, when no electricity is being produced.

 

 

 

 


Questions:

  1. What problems are created when producing electricity by burning fossil fuels in power plants?

 

  1. From the list above which is the most important advantage to producing energy from the wind? Which is the most important disadvantage? Explain your choices.

 

  1. Bonus: How can wind energy production increase by 52.1% since 1971 and still only be 0.0026% of all renewable sources of energy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STUDENT ACTIVITY SHEET

How a Wind Turbine Works

 

A wind turbine creates electricity. The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator to make the electricity. The electricity is sent through transmission power lines to a substation, then on to homes, business and schools.

In larger turbines a computer will determine the wind direction and will keep the blades pointing into the wind. The computer also determines the most efficient angle (or pitch) for the blades. For smaller turbines the direction is determined by a tail fin and it will turn to face the wind like a weather vane.

When the wind becomes too strong during a storm the large wind turbines have an emergency shut-off and will stop rotating to protect the blades and the equipment inside.

 

The diagram below shows the main parts inside a wind turbine:

 

 

Wind Energy Presentation RUBRIC

 

 

1

3

5

Renewable energy information

Basic information supplied

More detailed information supplied

Detailed information supplied showing a clear understanding of the concepts involved

Benefits of renewable energy demonstrated

General reference to benefits of renewable energy

More specific benefits demonstrated

Detailed and specific benefits demonstrated

Understanding of how wind energy is produced

General and/or minimal information supplied

More specific references to wind energy

Detailed and specific references to wind energy

Comparison to use of fossil fuels

 

General and/or minimal information is supplied

Basic information with some comparisons made

Detailed and specific information  with a clear understanding of the differences between the use of fossil fuels and renewables

Creative use of the medium

Very basic use of the medium with little ingenuity shown

Incorporates some innovative techniques to present the information

Very innovative use of the medium with evidence of planning and good communication skills