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Tower helps Timberlake Christian Schools study wind

First comes the tower. Later, maybe, some power.

Staff from the Virginia Center for Wind Energy at James Madison University erected a 66-foot meteorological tower at Timberlake Christian Schools in Forest on Tuesday.

The tower will measure wind speed and direction for one year. School officials plan to use the data to see if it makes sense to install a wind turbine to generate electricity, and students will use the information for science activities.

“There’s a lot of math, statistics and graphing that come with real-time data,” said Timberlake Christian Schools Development Director Sandi Martin, who spearheaded the school’s grant application to the Wind for Schools program. She explained the Center for Wind Energy had given the school a curriculum to use with the tower.

At the school Tuesday, the team from James Madison worked through their own engineering challenges, figuring out how compensate for an unexpected rocky patch where they’d wanted to place anchors for the tower.

Using cables and poles, they prepared to erect the tower. With staff members working together from all sides, the scene was reminiscent of a ships’ crew setting sail, or a circus crew pitching a tent.

Remy Pangle said the tower at Timberlake Christian Schools is the fifth such tower the organization has installed at a Virginia school. They’ve placed many more, she said, in other locations.

Pangle took time out from working on the tower to talk to students about wind power and how wind gets measured.

She said the tower has an anemometer on it, which allows it to measure the speed of the breeze.

“Up at 66 feet, nothing is blocking the wind,” she told them, explaining why it makes sense to measure it from higher up, rather than just using an anemometer on the ground.

She showed the children a couple of low-tech options for measuring wind speed – such as eyeballing wind conditions from the movement of trees using something called the Beaufort scale. Students started in on a craft project to create windsocks – another low-tech wind measurement option.

Roger Beale, a Bedford County resident who has wind and solar power-generating systems at his home, stopped by the school for the afternoon, as did Del. Scott Garrett, who spoke with the students about the various ways energy is generated in Virginia.