Real-world energy management lab

Real-world energy management lab

The school as real-world energy management laboratory
Kentucky School Advocate
April 2016
By Madelynn Coldiron
Staff writer
Hardin County
At the Hardin County Schools Early College and Career Center, students were working in small groups to plan their next project: an energy audit of their own building. But it’s not the only time the center becomes a hands-on learning example.

“We use our school as a living, breathing laboratory,” energy management teacher Joe Stuecker said. “If we’re talking about lighting systems, we will talk about it in here, then we will leave the classroom and go and look at lighting layouts or lighting controls. If we’re talking about geothermal, we’ll talk about pumps and we’ll talk about water systems and then we’ll go in our building and look at this stuff. If we want to monitor how these systems work, we go out and we put the equipment out and we monitor it. We use all of our school.”

The center’s design is conducive to using it as a guinea pig, Stuecker said, but added that age and design should not stop other schools from doing such work.

“There’s still so many opportunities that you could go and see things. All the places to save and be more efficient are all over, whether you’ve got a new school or the old school, you can find so many things,” he said.
During their Energy II class at Hardin County Early College and Career Center, l-r, Alan Jarow,
Nick Claycomb and Antonio Lugo develop a plan for conducting an energy audit of their building.

Student Quinton Pickering said the Early College and Career Center is “almost perfect” from an energy-efficiency standpoint. “We’re not going to find a lot of issues with it but we might find ways to make it a net zero school,” he said.

The energy management students will be extending their work outside their school, working as facilitators to help students in other Hardin County schools monitor energy use in their buildings. Stuecker said he hopes this will lead to a competition among schools to see which can be the most energy efficient.

“For these guys to be able to take what they’ve learned in here and go to these younger students, or other students, and teach it to them, that’s powerful – that’s powerful for them and powerful for the students they’re teaching,” he said.
Scott County
“Solar energy is cost-effective today in many applications in Kentucky,” according to the state Department of Energy Development and Independence, and, while less promising, wind energy might be feasible in “specific sites and applications.”

Margaret Moore, a senior at Elkhorn Crossing School in the Scott County district, is going to test those statements on her own school building.

With some help from friends in the engineering “village” at the career and tech school, Moore built two solar panels and a wind turbine that are scheduled to be installed on the school’s roof this spring. She has helmed the project all year. An energy technology grant from the state education department paid for the equipment, Principal Michelle Nichols said.

“We’re trying to see which one works better, conducts more energy, between the solar panel and the wind turbine,” Moore explained. “Each is connected to a single battery and we’re going to measure the charge on each battery to see which one gets most charged.”
Elkhorn Crossing School senior Margaret Moore sorts through parts for
the two solar panels she constructed for placement on the school roof.
She has been researching what types of energy work best in Kentucky, particularly central Kentucky. “It’s very different between winter and summer here so we’re going to measure overall what would be the best between the two seasons, too. So maybe we can rely on solar panels during the summer and wind turbines in the winter and fall,” she said.

The project has taught her more about energy, particularly solar panels, along with electrical engineering skills like soldering and circuitry. With the roof installation, she has also picked up some structural engineering experience. Once the results are established, Moore said she wants to ramp up the project. “I want to continue with this project as I leave the school, with other students. That’s my main goal.”

Nichols said she’d eventually like to see these energy sources power the school’s entire engineering lab.

Moore, who is University of Kentucky-bound, said she wants to go into chemical engineering to learn more about the chemistry behind energy management, and wants to help solve what she calls “one of our main problems in this generation: Where are we going to get energy in the next 100 years.”
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