Arizona school pioneers a contemporary eco-education

Arizona school pioneers a contemporary eco-education

An update from a Wind for Schools participant

In July 2010, Daniel Snyder of Westwind Solar Electric Inc. received a call that would change the way he looked at the next generation of renewable pioneers. Lloyd Construction, a general contracting company in Tucson had an interesting proposal for Snyder and his team, to install wind turbines on the grounds of what would be one of the country’s first newly built eco-friendly schools. With construction well underway, Snyder installed five grid-tied Skystream 3.7® wind turbines from Southwest Windpower, which would soon produce some 2 percent of the school’s electricity per year. We checked in to see how the turbines have been performing.
Tucson, Ariz.-based Vail Academy and High School (VAHS) not only has Skystream’s slender silhouettes along the north side of the building, but it is fully equipped with 11 10 kW rooftop solar PV arrays and water harvesting tanks, according to Snyder, the dealer who supplied and installed the Skystream turbines. In 2011, the school was awarded a LEED Gold Certification; a goal the principal, Dennis J. Barger set and reached in a two year time period, Snyder said.

The Skystream’s are approximately 150 feet (46 m) apart from one another and rest on 48-foot (14.6 m) non-segmented monopole towers. The poles were custom made for VAHS to also house light fixtures specified by the school, Snyder said.


The K-12 progressive, forward-thinking school was awarded the certification based off building design and construction, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. Classroom acoustics, master planning, mold prevention and environmental site assessments were also judged by LEED with the New Construction rating system.

The students are taught in naturally lit classrooms as much as possible. When the lights are turned on, the power stems from the solar and wind resources that encompass the building. The landscaping around the school consists of native vegetation and artificial grass, eliminating the need for watering. Some 98 percent of the construction waste was recycled.

“The turbines are a landmark,” said Snyder. “You can see them from the freeway—they’re cool looking and sexy. It’s a constant reminder to the potential of renewables.”  

Some 8,800 kWh were produced over the first year, Snyder says. “Production is better than we thought,” he said. “I’ve checked the site with SitelookTM for a typical southern Arizona site where wind is not predominant.” The turbines have exceeded expectations despite geographical and weather adversities.


Wind Powering America and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) launched the Wind for Schools project in 2005, which brings energy technologies to students, giving them a platform to launch clean-energy careers. To date there are 11 states which support the projects (AK, AZ, CO, ID, KS, MT, NC, NE, PA, SD, VA). The project aims to install small wind turbines at rural elementary and secondary schools while developing Wind Application Centers at high education institutions.

Southwest Windpower is the original turbine supplier for Wind Powering America’s Wind for Schools program and offers a discount on the Skystream 3.7 turbine. Since partnering with Wind for Schools in 2005, Southwest Windpower has assisted in bringing the Skystream turbine to schools in 11 states. The company offers educational discounts on a case-by-case basis for Skystream, AIR and Whisper turbine installations at schools that meet certain criteria. To find out if your educational project qualifies, fill out the Southwest Windpower Special Pricing Application.


Wind for Schools project brings wind energy education to classrooms

Leading Our Children to a More Sustainable Energy Future. Today.

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