About five years ago, several students at Mahtomedi High School (MHS) explored the possibility of implementing a small wind project on their campus. Shortly afterwards, a group of motivated citizens in the area concerned about energy conservation, renewable energy and sustainability formed the Mahtomedi Area Green Initiative (MAGI) with a vision of seeing a turbine on the sidelines of the high school athletic fields. These community volunteers and Mahtomedi students, led by the MHS Eco Club, have banded together to work with neighbors, businesses, schools, churches and local government to gradually build a broad base of support for that initial dream: an educational renewable energy project to benefit the community and the environment.
With a solid plan, well-respected wind energy contractor and committed community behind us, students have played a major role in working to raise the $100,000 needed to build a 10 kilowatt wind turbine adjacent to the high school football field. The Zephyr Wind turbine, funded by private donations and grants, will be owned by Mahtomedi Public Schools. In the fall of 2009, the current group of Eco Club students got educated about the Zephyr Wind Project and made the decision to do what they could to support the fundraising and outreach components of the project. They planned, organized and followed through on the creation and sales of t-shirts to benefit the project. Through additional fundraising efforts, including several girl scouts in the club donating their cookie sales, the club has generated almost $3,000 for the project. They also participated in staffing and educating guests at a project fundraiser last summer that generated over $30,000.
Eco Club students have organized speakers to occasionally attend their weekly meetings to provide background and increase their knowledge of the issues. Through use of the student announcements, including parent e-mails, students, staff and parents from throughout the high school have been invited to attend the presentations. Students have also staffed several community events with the purpose of educating the community about the project, reaching several hundred kids and community members. Events included the Mahtomedi Farmers Market, the school district Halloween Ball, RITE of Spring (community Earth Day event), two community engineering education events, football and basketball games, Zephyr Art Festival in the town square and the Zephyr Wind Project fundraiser. Residents and community members repeatedly commented on the knowledge and maturity of the students involved in staffing the numerous events. Those of us helping to coordinate the project believe that we couldn’t have accomplished what we did or received the participation of so many partners without their involvement.
The Zephyr Wind turbine will produce electricity for our schools while at the same time linking to Mahtomedi’s impressive K-12 Engineering Leadership Program and nearby Century College. It will be equipped with performance and wind measuring devices that will generate real-time data accessible via the Internet for learning experiences in science, technology, engineering and math. Other schools will be able to tap into the Zephyr Wind Project by accessing the data from the wind turbine. Real-time data from the project will be available through the internet. We are pursuing a partnership with the schools of the White Earth Tribe in northwestern Minnesota as they have a similar turbine, which will enable some interesting comparisons.
We have enough funds on hand to begin construction of the turbine, which is planned to be completed sometime during the summer of 2011. Our partnership, fundraising and project model can be replicated in other communities, and we would welcome the opportunity to share what we have learned with others.
Jeff Ledermann, Mahtomedi High School Eco Club Advisor