Mission: to develop a sustainably funded program to engage, educate, inspire, and dramatically expand the next generation of the wind workforce.
In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) 20% Wind by 2030 project in 2006, DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL’s) Wind Powering America program initiated the Wind for Schools (WfS) program to address the need to educate the next generation of wind workers. In the ensuing decade, twelve university–based Wind Application Centers (WACs) were established to engage college students by having them conduct classroom studies, field assessments, and installations of small wind turbines at rural schools. Additionally, the WACs engaged in teacher training, collaborated with KidWind challenges, and evaluated data from the installed turbines. To date, more than 350 turbines (more than 40% of which are directly attributable to the WfS program) have been installed at schools.
The WACs were modeled after DOE’s highly successful Industrial Assessment Centers that have been operating for four decades and count more than thirty universities. While there are only twelve WACs currently in place, there are more than twenty additional states that have potential. The current WACs are:
WAC activities include:
- School project evaluation and implementation
- Turbine data collection, troubleshooting, and maintenance
- Anemometer loan program
- University wind classes, clubs, and student wind technology projects
- Curricula development and teacher training
- School and community outreach and technical assistance
- KidWind Challenges
- Collegiate Wind Competition (auxiliary project)
- State WfS website
The DOE Wind Vision identifies the need for a dramatically expanded workforce to support the next three decades of U.S.-based on and offshore wind deployment. As part of its effort to accomplish this needed workforce expansion, NREL, with DOE funding, awarded a competitive solicitation to an experienced team of wind and renewable energy professionals to develop a WfS Sustainability Plan, based on public-private partnerships. The plan will be implemented in 2017 with the establishment of an independent 501c3 organization to secure funding and provide oversight of a multi-year program to support the existing 12 WACs and expand the network to other interested windy states.
Each of the twelve existing states will be evaluated for the development of a state-based, public-private consortium to provide oversight and support of the individual state WACs. It is anticipated that each state consortium will be made up of:
- Members from the renewable energy industry and supply chain
- Advocacy organizations
- Environmentally conscious corporations
- Clean energy alliances
- State–based foundations
- State government agencies
Organizational management and supplemental funding will come from both the national 501c3 fundraising efforts with foundations, corporations, government agencies, and the U.S. DOE. Currently, WACs operate on a $25k/year DOE stipend, but it is anticipated they could have a more robust effort at up to double that amount. NREL, with DOE funding, will continue to provide technical support to the WAC network, support development of improved curricula, and the development and tracking of workforce metrics. KidWind activities will be incorporated as appropriate into the WAC activities as well.
The project team developing the WfS Sustainability Plan has spent the past twelve months engaging a broad range of wind, renewable energy, and environmentally engaged private and public stakeholders to both solicit their ideas and financial interests in participating in the national and/or state-based consortia.
If you are interested in more information, discussing ways to get involved in the project, or with the 12 WACs, please contact:
To make a tax deductible donation to the Wind for Schools program, please click the button below.
Excellent information on DOE/NREL’s Wind for Schools program can be found on the OpenEI Wind for Schools Portal.