Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Local Students Learn to Harness Renewable Energy

Rachael Cornelison. (Photo: Dominion Energy)

NEWPORT NEWS — Renewable energy sources are finding their way into one local school thanks to a partnership between the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation and the National Energy Education Development Project (NEED).

New Horizons Regional Education Center, which enrolls students from Gloucester, Hampton, James City County, Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg and York County, was one of two schools to receive a 30-foot tall micro wind turbine, solar panels and two 12-volt energy storage batteries.

The program includes a hands-on curriculum from NEED that allows students to learn about wind in the classroom. Teachers also receive training on the curriculum and the use of the wind turbine data.

Students in the Electricity and Renewable Energy course have been learning about renewable energy through the data they acquire from the micro wind turbine and solar panels that sit just outside of their classroom.

Their teacher, Rachael Cornelison, is a former military member who also had a career as a General Electrical Foreman before joining New Horizons as a Career and Technical Education instructor in the Fall of 2023.

Using real-time data to provide students with practical usage information is a real win for the program states Cornelison.

Micro wind turbine and solar panels at New Horizons Regional Education Center. (Stephanie Sabin/WYDaily)

“Being able to have these representations of a real solar panel and wind turbine to show [students] this is what they look like, how they work and this is how we could use it is phenomenal.” Cornelison continued, “We have a program on our classroom computer that we use every day to monitor how much power is produced. It can tell you ‘this can charge so many AA batteries or this would power up the lights of the Eiffel Tower for so many hours.'”

Cornelison is passionate about educating her students with real-world opportunities that she hopes will broaden their skills for a lifetime, “I want these students, if they decide they want to have a career, to be able to go out their first year and know something — to be an asset to a company. I am trying to instill in them [students] that renewable energy is the future.”

Principal Nicole Stephens is proud of the new addition to her school and hopes the program will continue to grow. Electricity and Renewable Energy “exposes students to another side of electricity, it introduces them to another form of energy while they are young,” said Stephens.

Renewable energy and ways to harness those powers are still growing, “I want people to keep an open mind to the possibilities of what this type of program can do for our future. There are so many potential areas in which renewable energy can be used and save the environment. We kind of need that right now,” stated Cornelison.

“Programs like this set us apart [from other schools] and allows us to have a wider reach since we service six different local communities. These students can go back to their community and provide the services they have learned here. They can work. They can start their own businesses,” stated Stephens, “I will also add that sometimes our students come here and they say, ‘I really want to be an electrician.’ And after the year-long program, feel ‘this isn’t really for me.’ But, they still take things from it and can transition to another class and find what they are passionate about.”

Students and parents interested in learning more about the programs offered at New Horizon Regional Education Center Woodside location in Newport News can attend its open house on Feb. 7 from 4-7 p.m.

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