Green Energy Tour

Inside a new 62.5 megawatt turbine, one of my students wrote STEM in grease… after getting a handful of grease from the small doorway.

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, seventeen students from my school, the Downingtown STEM Academy, visited three “green energy” sites. Holtwood hydroelectric facility and Turkey Hill’s wind turbine and methane-gas facility.

Our first stop was the Holtwood Hydroelectric facility, owned by Pennsylvania Power and Light. This facility was built in the early 1900s, and it has produced clean energy from the Susquehanna River for over 100 years. When it was built, this 100-megawatt facility was the second longest hydroelectric dam in the USA and the third longest in the world. Currently it is under construction, which will increase its output by about 125-megawatts with two, 62.5-megawatt turbines. The original plan has 10, 10-megawatt turbines. The new turbines are MASSIVE (the students and I got to stand right beside the turbine in the intake for the river… which was dry of course). We got to stand inside approximately a ten-story turbine facility. It was… awe-inspiring. The old turbines, which are largely the same as the original turbines, have a world-renowned feature. The Michell/Kingsbury bearing sits beneath the 220-ton original turbine. It has worked since its installation in 1910. In 1950, when the turbine was shut down for inspection, the Kingsbury bearing was still flawless, and engineers suspected it would last over 1,000 years-truly remarkable. Students were impressed by the tour, led by the plant manager.

He gave us an unrestricted tour- showing us the main floor of the plant, the spillway, the fish elevator, up-close views of the turbines, beneath main floor so we could see the turbines spinning, through the extension to the new plant, the new turbines, and the new goes-inta (or intake) to the new turbines. We could not have asked for more. For obvious reasons, I cannot post the pictures I took inside the plant. However, the few here are just a small hint of what we got to see.

The second leg of our journey took us to see wind turbines and a landfill gas-to-electricity facility. Unfortunately the wind turbines were not spinning (they require an 8mph wind to turn).

The turbines, when spinning, do provide 33%-50% of the power needed to run Turkey Hill dairy and make their ice cream!The wind turbines are clearly visible from the Route 30 bridge over the Susquehanna River- if you look south you can see them! On my most recent trip across the river, I saw them for the first time, though they have been slowly spinning since 2010.

Right next to the wind turbines was a facility to recover methane gas from a landfill and burn the gas to produce electricity. Because we were running late, we were unable to view the facility beyond seeing the hill outside. I made sure to ask about the hill, because if you were not paying attention, you could miss that the hill beside you was producing electricity.

According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2012, the USA will be the world’s top oil producer by 2020, and by 2030 North America should be a net-exporter of oil. Advancing technology in oil extraction combined with tapping renewable energy will help the USA propel forward as a global energy superpower. The diverse, innovative solutions will help the USA achieve energy superiority.

I hope my students remember one solution is not a fix for our global problems. Many times difficult problems require many partial answers, which together solve the problem.


2 thoughts on “Green Energy Tour

  1. Stern Advice November 25, 2012 / 10:03 am

    I think it’s great that you take your students to these places. This will imbue them to come up with solutions to their future challenges. Well done 🙂

    • Justin Staub, Ed.D. November 25, 2012 / 2:05 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Stephanie. I did not come up with the trip, but I did help get students interested and involved. I cannot take the credit. The school I work for is really awesome. Learning experiences like these are very common. Thanks for showing interest.

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