School board approves contract for installation of energy stations

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published January 28, 2015

HARPER WOODS — Analyzing data from alternative energy sources isn’t only for scientists in the field, but also for budding scientists in the classroom in Harper Woods.

The district has been gearing up for a plan to bring renewable energy technology to the district as a hands-on learning tool. The project took its next step with the approval of a $21,250 contract to move forward with the installation of a wind turbine and solar panels.

“When installed, these two operational power plants will provide our students with an introduction to the opportunities and capabilities of alternative energy sources,” Superintendent Todd Biederwolf said in an email. “Each facet of these power producers will be integrated with a custom-designed real-time software package that will provide data directly into our classrooms for our students and our staff to monitor and analyze, so as to create a real- world context for some of our units of study. 

“We will also have a variety of monitoring systems and gauges installed in our science classrooms, as well as outlets that are directly powered by these sources,” he added.

The turbine itself is designed to be compact and cylindrical, 30 feet tall and 4 feet wide, as well as quiet, according to information from the company that makes the equipment. 

He said the goal was to create an alternative energy lab. While it will create a limited amount of energy, the purpose is not to cut the district’s energy costs, but to serve as a learning tool.

Schranda Collier, the high school principal, said this new technology is a way for students to connect the information they’re learning in class to real-world applications, which allows the students to more readily master concepts. 

“It’s a really cool opportunity,” she said.

The contract went to Oak Electric, located in Walled Lake, which was the sole bidder on the project. While Biederwolf said projects of this size usually need three bidders based on the district’s policy, the board can move forward with one bidder if it feels the bidder is qualified for the work.

Biederwolf said it was challenging finding a company because Michigan is not a hub for this type of alternative energy at this time.

He was pleased with Oak Electric, which sent a representative who spent four hours at the school. 

“I do believe that they are a qualified firm that will do a good job for us,” he said. 

The work will have to wait until the ground thaws because they have to put concrete in the ground for the wind turbine, which is slated for placement near the main entrance of the secondary building on Beaconsfield.

The solar panels will be placed on the roof, but there is consideration to put a limited number on the side of the building so people can see the technology at work.

“It’s going to be exciting to see that up and operating,” Biederwolf said. “I do believe those will be up and operating by the end of this school year.”

The wind turbine and solar panels will be coupled with the completion of the installation of a greenhouse that also will have solar energy.

“Harper Woods Schools will have a state-of-the-art, fully operational green array of learning labs for our secondary students,” he said. “We also envision our elementary students taking field trips to see these power plants in operation and to learn more about green energy as part of the learning opportunities we provide students of that age.”