A renewable energy project using solar panels and wind turbines may be built at Rim of the World High School next summer, possibly opening the door to helping students find alternative energy jobs and careers.
Part of the proposed $6.5 million Rim schools modernization plan for 2012 to be considered by the Rim school board, the $250,000 green energy project also would generate electricity and transmit it into Southern California Edison's power grid.
While the amount of credit Rim of the World Unified School District would receive each month on its power bill wouldn't be that great, it would be a savings, said Scott Markovich, school board trustee.
"This is really about engaging the kids in our schools in an industry where the jobs are," Markovich told this newspaper. "With this project, the kids in the high school's physics and science classes will get to see opportunities with a hands-on approach."
According to the district's architects, PJHM Architects of Laguna Hills, the wind turbines being considered are vertical axis wind turbines designed by Urban Green Energy of New York.
The units don't use propeller-style arms such as those seen by driving along Interstate 10 around Palm Springs, and are much smaller. They are also quieter, said David Bell, PJHM's architect and a principal with the firm. The units are about 30 feet tall, and would be located on the eastern potion of the high school's property.
Markovich said that the California Division of the State Architect currently is reviewing Rim's plans.
While still in the early planning stages, Markovich said the concept is to have the energy project serve as a learning lab for students.
The learning opportunity also would extend beyond the high school, he added.
Students from Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate School as well as Rim's elementary schools could be involved, and field trips to the energy project control room would show students practical applications from the science lessons being learned.
The vision is to be able to have students monitor the power being generated by the solar panels and wind turbines, and be involved with the process of transmitting energy back into Edison's power grid.
"We need to get our schools aligned with alternative energy," Markovich said. "The key is getting everyone in the school administration to catch the vision."
He said that change is happening.
Rim of the World High School's Environmental Club has been a leader in looking at alternative energy opportunities, and has been behind getting a green energy project at the school.
Markovich said if Rim schools can bring more practical learning programs about green energy into the education curriculum, the word would spread.
"We want our schools to be seen as a great place for kids to learn," he said.
It's all about showing how classroom knowledge can be applied into practical use.
"This will help those students who want a career or good paying jobs, jobs such as an energy engineer or solar technician," he said.