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Wind Power Basics

Infinite Power of Texas

This activity introduces wind energy concepts through a reading passage and by answering assessment questions. The main section of the activity involves constructing and testing a windmill to observe how design and position affect the electrical energy produced.

Activity takes four to five 45-minute class periods. Additional materials are necessary.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 7 Cross Cutting Concepts, 9 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 4 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 13 Science and Engineering Practices

Energy Literacy

Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
Other materials addressing:
4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
Electricity is usually generated in one of two ways.
Other materials addressing:
4.5 Electricity generation.
Earth's weather and climate is mostly driven by energy from the Sun.
Other materials addressing:
2.3 Earth's climate driven by the Sun.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:B) Designing investigations
Other materials addressing:
B) Designing investigations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
Other materials addressing:
C) Energy.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
Other materials addressing:
D) Technology.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:E) Environmental Issues
Other materials addressing:
E) Environmental Issues.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action
Other materials addressing:
C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • The State of Texas, which developed this activity, is usually thought of as being an oil and gas state, but it is a national and global leader in wind energy as well.
  • Add additional questions to the reading guide to assess student learning of all content presented.
  • Supplementary information resource is the National Wind Technology Center's website- http://www.nrel.gov/wind/.
  • The definition of an electric grid is presented, but information regarding the importance of an updated grid to be able to accommodate large wind farms is not; it should be noted that this is a key hurdle in the large scale deployment of wind technology. The U.S. Department of Energy has a site discussing the smart grid plans for the 21st century: http://www.oe.energy.gov/smartgrid.htm.

About the Science

  • This lesson introduces students to the concept of generating electricity from the wind and has a strong teacher section with background information.
  • The lesson does not distinguish the differences between a wind mill (used for grinding grain or pumping water) and a wind turbine (used for generating electricity).
  • Comments from expert scientist: The science is generally correct and the lesson plan includes two recommended activities plus a follow-up optional activity to reinforce wind energy conversion concepts. In general, students and teachers can benefit from the module.

About the Pedagogy

  • Based on their lab results, students will also engage in a follow-up activity to measure the power generated by their optimized windmill.
  • Strong assessment section for lab activities.
  • Comments from expert scientist: I would recommend 3-4 hours for this activity alone. The instructions on Step II should include a statement that the student holding the end of the ruler should not stand directly in line with the fan and rotor, as the student’s body will obstruct enough wind to change the experimental results.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Comprehensive teachers guide provided; answer key included.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Performance Expectations: 1

MS-ETS1-4: Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-ETS1.B1:A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it.

MS-PS3.A1:Motion energy is properly called kinetic energy; it is proportional to the mass of the moving object and grows with the square of its speed.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 7

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Patterns, Cause and effect

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C4.3:Models are limited in that they only represent certain aspects of the system under study.

MS-C5.2: Within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter.

MS-C5.3:Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

MS-C5.4:The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

Science and Engineering Practices: 9

Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

MS-P2.1:Evaluate limitations of a model for a proposed object or tool.

MS-P2.2:Develop or modify a model— based on evidence – to match what happens if a variable or component of a system is changed.

MS-P2.4:Develop and/or revise a model to show the relationships among variables, including those that are not observable but predict observable phenomena.

MS-P3.4:Collect data to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer scientific questions or test design solutions under a range of conditions

MS-P4.3: Distinguish between causal and correlational relationships in data.

MS-P6.2:Construct an explanation using models or representations.

MS-P6.6:Apply scientific ideas or principles to design, construct, and/or test a design of an object, tool, process or system.

MS-P6.7:Undertake a design project, engaging in the design cycle, to construct and/or implement a solution that meets specific design criteria and constraints

MS-P8.1:Critically read scientific texts adapted for classroom use to determine the central ideas and/or obtain scientific and/or technical information to describe patterns in and/or evidence about the natural and designed world(s).

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-PS3-3: Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 4

HS-ETS1.A2:Humanity faces major global challenges today, such as the need for supplies of clean water and food or for energy sources that minimize pollution, which can be addressed through engineering. These global challenges also may have manifestations in local communities

HS-PS3.A1:Energy is a quantitative property of a system that depends on the motion and interactions of matter and radiation within that system. That there is a single quantity called energy is due to the fact that a system’s total energy is conserved, even as, within the system, energy is continually transferred from one object to another and between its various possible forms.

HS-PS3.A2:At the macroscopic scale, energy manifests itself in multiple ways, such as in motion, sound, light, and thermal energy.

HS-PS3.A5:“Electrical energy” may mean energy stored in a battery or energy transmitted by electric currents.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 6

Patterns, Cause and effect, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Structure and Function

HS-C1.3:Patterns of performance of designed systems can be analyzed and interpreted to reengineer and improve the system.

HS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

HS-C4.1:Systems can be designed to do specific tasks.

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

HS-C5.3:Energy cannot be created or destroyed—only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

HS-C6.1:Investigating or designing new systems or structures requires a detailed examination of the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and connections of components to reveal its function and/or solve a problem.

Science and Engineering Practices: 13

Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P2.2:Design a test of a model to ascertain its reliability.

HS-P2.3:Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system

HS-P2.5:Develop a complex model that allows for manipulation and testing of a proposed process or system.

HS-P2.6:Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems.

HS-P3.1:Plan an investigation or test a design individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence as part of building and revising models, supporting explanations for phenomena, or testing solutions to problems. Consider possible confounding variables or effects and evaluate the investigation’s design to ensure variables are controlled.

HS-P3.3:Plan and conduct an investigation or test a design solution in a safe and ethical manner including considerations of environmental, social, and personal impacts.

HS-P3.6:Manipulate variables and collect data about a complex model of a proposed process or system to identify failure points or improve performance relative to criteria for success or other variables.

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

HS-P4.5:Evaluate the impact of new data on a working explanation and/or model of a proposed process or system.

HS-P6.2:Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

HS-P6.5:Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

HS-P7.6:Evaluate competing design solutions to a real-world problem based on scientific ideas and principles, empirical evidence, and/or logical arguments regarding relevant factors (e.g. economic, societal, environmental, ethical considerations).

HS-P8.1:Critically read scientific literature adapted for classroom use to determine the central ideas or conclusions and/or to obtain scientific and/or technical information to summarize complex evidence, concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

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