Wind for Schools program implemented at Pocatello Community Charter School

Wind Powering America and Southwest Windpower Partner to Bring First Wind Turbine to Idaho Town

| Southwest Windpower

For Pocatello Community Charter School (PCCS), the journey toward becoming an environmentally responsible education facility began in 2005 with the construction of a new facility using sustainable measures to conserve energy, followed by the 2007 installation of a solar panel. Then last year, with the help of Wind Powering America's (WPA) Wind for Schools program and the support of the community, PCCS was able to further its commitment to environmental stewardship and overcome zoning and funding issues to install the area’s first ever wind turbine — Southwest Windpower’s Skystream 3.7.
PCCS Principal Martha Martin first learned of the Wind for Schools program through Billie Johnson, an engineer in Pocatello who volunteers at the school. Recognizing how the synergy among the sustainable building materials, solar and wind power could provide cost-efficient, clean energy for the school while the turbine would also serve as an excellent learning tool for students. Martin was immediately on board to pursue the opportunity.
The school is a ‘center for expeditionary learning’ serving approximately 350 kindergarten through eighth grade students. As such, PCCS administrators strive to teach students reading, writing, science, math and social studies through connected, real-world projects called learning expeditions to emphasize active learning, character growth and teamwork.
“Pocatello Community Charter School is designed to engage students through action learning and outside-the-classroom activities,” explained Martin. “The partnership between Wind for Schools and Pocatello Community Charter School affords our students the opportunity to experience firsthand how they can positively impact the environment by adopting sustainable energy practices such as solar and wind power installations.”
It wasn’t until the school received a grant from Lowe’s® Home Improvement that the project became a reality. Through the “Toolbox for Education” program, Lowe’s donated more than $12,000 to PCCS — $7,000 more than the Idaho school originally requested from the home improvement retailer.
Even after the funding issues subsided, it was a challenge to navigate the city’s permitting process as no one had ever taken a project of this nature so far. At the time, Pocatello city ordinance required school officials to file a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the turbine and consequentially pay $529 in fees. That’s when the community stepped in to show their unwavering support for the turbine installation.
“When the town council refused to waive the CUP fee, community members immediately started signing checks toward the fund,” continued Martin. “Within two days we received more than $2,000 in donations. It was an incredible outpouring of generosity!”
The school administration, teachers, and community members sought donations, sponsorships and volunteers to generate the remaining funds needed for the installation. Students even hit the streets selling tie-dyed t-shirts featuring the project sponsors – which included Southwest Windpower – to show their support of the school’s latest renewable energy initiative.
“Our partnership with Wind for Schools is helping build excitement about science- and technology-based fields to students at a young age,” said Andy Kruse, co-founder and executive vice president of Southwest Windpower. “This program involves the kind of hands-on technology that motivates youths to pursue learning and career opportunities in renewable energy and we are proud to be such an integral part of it.”
After all the money was raised and the project was sufficiently zoned, students, teachers, parents, installers and community members worked together with to install the Skystream turbine. Upon completion, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held to thank sponsors and the community for their unwavering support. Pocatello officials and Mayor Roger Chase were in attendance.
Martin says Southwest Windpower was helpful throughout the process, going beyond just installing the turbine. “They even provided extra parts for us to showcase and use in the classroom,” Martin added.
According to Martin, the Skystream installation has provided a wealth of benefits to both the school and the community. In addition to reducing energy bills, the installation has paved the way for other schools, facilities and homes in Pocatello to become better stewards of the environment. Several small wind turbines have since been installed outside Pocatello homes and one local high school has announced its interest in a Skystream installation as well. Additionally, thanks to an ordinance revision prompted in part by the Pocatello Community Charter School’s experience, some future small wind turbine installations will now be able to forego the daunting CUP process.
PCCS teachers have since incorporated wind turbine extension activities into their curricula further advancing the school as a leader in alternative energy education. Middle school students have a semester-long project where they conduct an energy audit of the school. Martin feels the greatest advantage of installing the Skystream is two-fold.
“The installation provides a school-wide learning opportunity. It’s one thing to read about renewable energy in a textbook; it’s another to have the turbine on your campus. The students can see it working and understand its impact on the environment. That is really powerful learning,” said Martin. “Additionally, having the Skystream proudly displayed on our campus sends a message to the community about environmental stewardship.”
Thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive outcome of the turbine installation, Martin encourages other schools and communities to do the same. “The staff and students are so proud of the Skystream,” Martin expressed. “I am extremely grateful that we had the opportunity to work with Wind for Schools and Southwest Windpower, and could not have asked for a better outcome.”
PCCS is the third Idaho school to install Southwest Windpower’s Skystream 3.7 as part of the Wind for Schools program. As the original turbine supplier for Wind for Schools, Southwest Windpower supports the program by offering participants a 40 percent discount on the turbine. Since partnering with Wind for Schools in 2005, Southwest Windpower has assisted in bringing the Skystream 3.7 turbine to about 42 schools in 11 states.
Interactive and real-time tracking charts displaying the power and energy output of the Skystream turbine at PCCS can be found on the Wind for Schools website at
About Southwest Windpower
Southwest Windpower is the world’s leading supplier of distributed wind generators. With history lasting more than two decades, the company is a global leader and pioneer in the design, manufacturing and distribution of small wind systems (400-3000 watts). Southwest Windpower has built and shipped more than 160,000 wind turbines to more than 120 countries worldwide and has sales representation in over 88 countries. Headquartered in Flagstaff Ariz., the company also has operations in Cologne, Germany and a joint venture in Ningbo, China. Applications for Southwest Windpower systems include residential homes, commercial properties, micro grids, remote cabins, telecom transmitters, offshore platforms, water pumping and sailboats. Southwest Windpower is the manufacturer of such well-known products including Skystream, Whisper and Air lines of distributed wind systems.
For more information on Southwest Windpower and its products, visit

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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