Harper Woods Schools brings hands-on energy station to campus

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published August 27, 2014

HARPER WOODS — The district has been working in overdrive trying to roll out new technology for the students, but an upcoming project will set the district even farther apart from others.

They’re looking to bring in renewable energy technology, complete with a wind turbine, solar panels and monitoring software, before the first snowfall this school year. While it should save some modest amounts on energy costs for the district, the main purpose is to give the students an opportunity to work with the technology, analyze data in their science classes and make calculations in math, among other lessons.

“We would become one of the first districts in the state to have a renewable energy power production plant, if you will,” Superintendent Todd Biederwolf said.

“It’s an extremely contemporary recommendation,” he said. “It’s an extremely progressive recommendation.”

It would be an addition to the district’s smaller learning communities that allow students personalized learning environments where they can explore in personalized learning settings.

The new technology and installation won’t cost the district any general fund dollars because they will be using federal School Improvement Grant dollars to cover the $20,000-$25,000 cost. The district also expects to install a greenhouse that is projected to cost $10,000.

The project was discussed at the Aug. 19 board meeting.

“It’s a very exciting proposal,” Biederwolf said. “We are committed to providing students authentic opportunities to (explore different) career pathways.

When it comes to placing the items on campus, Biederwolf isn’t looking to hide them. The wind turbine will be the appropriate size for a residential area so it won’t be intrusive or noisy, he said.

He is looking to place the turbine in front of the building.

“We envision it being very visible to the community,” he said.

They want it placed so “parents can see it, our kids can talk about it,” Biederwolf said.

They’re still considering whether the solar panels would need to be placed on the roof or if they could be placed somewhere more visible, which is what Biederwolf would like so that students and others can see the technology at work.

“We would certainly envision both our middle school and high school being recognized as green schools,” Biederwolf said.

Biederwolf talked about possible future additions, like botanical gardens, ponds on campus or other additions to go with that green theme and offer students more opportunities.

While he spoke favorably about this opportunity, Biederwolf isn’t the only one wanting to see this new technology in the district. The board supported the measure, as well.

“This is very exciting,” Board Vice President Jill Quarker said.