Grant helps NAU spread word of wind power across Arizona


Northern Arizona University has been selected to host a new program that will develop educational programs to improve the understanding of wind technology through the installation of small wind turbines at K-12 schools in rural areas across the state.

NAU will receive about $60,000 a year for three years from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America program. The university will work with a network of community, state and industry partners to implement the program, including Flagstaff Unified School District, Southwest Windpower, the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce and Coconino County’s Sustainable Economic Development Initiative.

NAU entities involved include the Landsward Institute, the Sustainable Energy Solutions Group and the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals.

“This is a great opportunity for Northern Arizona University and the state of Arizona,” said William Auberle, NAU professor of civil and environmental engineering and principal investigator for the project. “The Wind for Schools program will provide practical support for science and technology education at all levels in Arizona, including on tribal lands.”

Auberle explained that many community groups wrote letters of support for NAU’s application, and the Department of Energy acknowledged that the university’s broad support was important in the competitive decision making.

“We took real pleasure in hearing about this award,” said Marshall Whitmire, executive director of Sustainable Economic Development Initiative. “We very much look forward to working with our partners, present and future, in developing support for the program’s implementation in our region’s schools.”

Through this project, NAU will administer a Sustainable Energy Technology Center housed at NAU. In addition to installing wind turbines the program will implement wind-related curricula and educational programs, both at K-12 schools and at the community college and university level. The center also will support small wind and anemometer installations at schools and other facilities throughout the state and will serve as a repository for wind data, curriculum materials and other information.

“I’m excited to increase the interactions between NAU’s engineering students and precollege students throughout northern Arizona,” said Allison Kipple, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science who will coordinate university academic activities with the Wind for Schools program. “Both groups of students tend to learn a lot and have a great time whenever they work together, and of course we’d love some of those curious kids to eventually attend NAU and then go change the world.”