By Time Staff
Last year, the Gloucester Education Foundation helped students at O'Maley Middle School step up their alternative energy studies as part of the school's Birdseye Hammond Lab for Science, Technology and Engineering.
Now, the foundation and O'Maley's students and teachers have literally taken the program to new heights, with the launch of a working wind turbine on the roof of the school.
The 1.2-kilowatt turbine was installed on the O'Maley roof last weekend, and School Committee Chairwoman Val Gilman said Friday that custodians have already noticed a positive difference in the school's energy use.
Gloucester Education Foundation President Ed Shoucair, who joined Superintendent of Schools Richard Safier and others Friday in braving nature's own 45-mph gusts to showcase the apparatus atop the building, noted that the turbine will generate electricity and save the schools money. But he also emphasized that it should do much more than that.
"It's a real nice project for our schools and the city to be associated with," Shoucair said. "For one thing, it can be a real model for other schools and for the city as whole. It can serve as a model for an alternative energy science curriculum. And it can serve as a model if we try to host some type of alternative energy fair — like a science fair — for schools and students throughout the North Shore. It has a lot of potential."
The vertical axis turbine — which is barely noticeable from the parking areas and streets and differs greatly from the traditional blade windmill — wirelessly transmits data for classroom use in eighth-grade science classes headed by teachers Amy Donnelly and David Brown.
The new turbine project was made possible through financial support from the foundation, which bolsters funding for a number of Gloucester school programs, and with backing from the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation, the Moore Family Foundation, Geoffrey Richon Builders and J&L Welding. Safier added that there will be a public showcase for the turbine and the alternative energy program in January.
Shoucair and Donnelly said in a prepared statement that the vertical design of the turbine allows it to spin without "hunting" for wind, as conventional turbines do.
When winds average 11mph, the turbine produces electricity for 2,000-kilowatt hours annually.
"It's basically a prototype — it's the size of one that someone could use at their home," Shoucair said. "But it also brings a lot to the school and our science programs. We're pretty excited about it."