Roseville elementary school plays with alternative energy

The playground at Steenland Elementary School in Roseville has some new equipment for all the children to see.

However, the two new pieces near where the students run and play  - a wind turbine and a solar pavilion  - are strictly for generating energy and learning, says fourth-grade teacher James Byrnes. In addition to the latest in power generators, the school, a 2-year-old building built to green standards, also has a new weather station on the rooftop. All of it possible through a grant from Energy Works Michigan.

The 2.4-kilowatt wind turbine, 2.4-kilowatt solar panel and weather station were unveiled last week during a ceremony, but the learning had already begun as Energy Works Michigan and its Renewable Schools program has trained teachers in an alternative energy curriculum.

While the turbine and solar panel will save Steenland about $100  a month in energy costs by generating some of its own power, the main purpose, Byrnes says, is to have amazing educational tools for the students, who are also being taught be teachers put through an alternative energy curriculum.

"The energy savings, that's just a little added benefit," he says. "I've always been interested in alternative energies and I've always wanted to do something like this. But I thought we'd have to spend our own dollars."

The school's immersion in alternative energy began with a $75,000-grant from Energy Works Michigan's Renewable Schools program, $9,000 of which was provided by Steenland due to matching requirements of the grant. Byrnes says the school PTO, local businesses and residents and the district. The Michigan Public Service Commission provides the grant dollars.

"It's really great how the community came together on this," he says.

Steenland is one of dozens of projects at schools around Michigan and one of the few that have both wind and solar power generators. It is the first in Macomb County.

Energy Works Michigan is in the process of accepting applications for a new round of Renewable Schools grants worth $4.4 million.

Source: James Byrnes, fourth-grade teacher Steenland Elmentary School and Kelly Weger, project coordinator Michigan Energy Works
Writer: Kim North Shine

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