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... or do they have to rely only on large utility companies ... The International Energy Agency estimates that as of 2001 all renewable energy ... THE CANADIAN ATLAS ...

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)


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: • Saskatchewan’s Wind Power Capacity http://www.econet.sk.ca/solutions/energy/wind.html • Article on small power producers in Saskatchewan who are beginning to sell their excess electricity to SaskPower. They are using various forms of renewable power sources (such as solar panels) and some are using small wind power projects. http://www.econet.sk.ca/solutions/energy/small_producers.html • A series of website references about small wind power: http://www.wind- works.org/articles/small_turbines.html#Economic%20Calculations (these tend to be technical but can provide background information for teachers.) • Small wind systems slide show: Very good summary of the issues around small wind energy. (U.S. information) http://www.awea.org/pubs/documents/swslides/toc.htm • Spirit Lake Wind Project: http://environmentpsychology.com/wind_energy_spirit_lake_project.htm • Informative website on wind energy. All other types of energy production are explained making this a comprehensive resource at a lower reading level – great for kids! http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/story/chapter16.html • Wind energy for kids webpage: (an excellent resource for students) http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/renewable/wind.html • Photos of small wind turbines: http://www.wind- works.org/photos/PhotosSmallTurbines.html • Panoramic photo of Rushlake Creek Wind Power Project, near Swift Current, SK. http://worldwidepanorama.org/worldwidepanorama/wwp905/html/DavidGerhard .html

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 |Ask: “How important is electricity in our |Working alone or in | |How will the |lives?” |pairs have students | |lesson open? |Create master list of objects that use |brainstorm and list | | |electricity from student responses. Have |everyday objects | | |students add objects mentioned to their |that use electricity| | |lists. |(from plugged-in | | |Point out how much we depend on |sources as opposed | | |electricity in our everyday lives. Thus |to battery | | |producing electricity is very important in|operated). Time | | |our society. |limit: one minute! | |Lesson |Introduce the concept of electricity |In groups of two or | |Development |production from burning fossil fuels or |three have students | |How will the |using nuclear power. Ask: “What problems |brainstorm problems | |lesson |are faced or created from these |faced/created by | |develop? |processes?” Record student responses. |burning fossil fuels| | |Emphasize the need to reduce our energy |(pollution, | | |consumption as a starting point to |fluctuation in fuel | | |understanding the role of renewable energy|prices, limited | | |sources. |supply, transporting| | |Introduce the importance of using |the fuel, etc.) | | |renewable resources (such as wind) to | | | |produce energy (clean, readily accessible,| | | |long-term supply, etc). |Read “Why is Wind | | |Hand out the information sheet on “Why is |Energy Important?” | | |Wind Energy Important?” Read together as a|handout and answer | | |class or within their groups. Have |the questions. | | |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/h| | | |ome.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). | | |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.


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.


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

2. 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.

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


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|Basic |More detailed |Detailed | |information |information |information |information | | |supplied |supplied |supplied showing| | | | |a clear | | | | |understanding of| | | | |the concepts | | | | |involved | |Benefits of |General |More specific |Detailed and | |renewable energy|reference to |benefits |specific | |demonstrated |benefits of |demonstrated |benefits | | |renewable energy| |demonstrated | |Understanding of|General and/or |More specific |Detailed and | |how wind energy |minimal |references to |specific | |is produced |information |wind energy |references to | | |supplied | |wind energy | |Comparison to |General and/or |Basic |Detailed and | |use of fossil |minimal |information with|specific | |fuels |information is |some comparisons|information | | |supplied |made |with a clear | | | | |understanding of| | | | |the differences | | | | |between the use | | | | |of fossil fuels | | | | |and renewables | |Creative use of |Very basic use |Incorporates |Very innovative | |the medium |of the medium |some innovative |use of the | | |with little |techniques to |medium with | | |ingenuity shown |present the |evidence of | | | |information |planning and | | | | |good | | | | |communication | | | | |skills |