On Wednesday, February 21st, 2018, 7 students and their coaches from Yellow Medicine East YES! team came together at the Yellow Medicine East High School to learn about how we use energy, where our energy comes from, and different energy sources in the Granite Falls area.
Tom McDougall, a former engineer, began the morning teaching students where our energy comes from including fossil fuels, nuclear fusion, hydro, wind, and solar. He explained that all of these methods, except for solar, work almost the same way by spinning a turbine that converts kinetic energy of a moving liquid or gas to mechanical energy. This energy then gets converted to electrical energy by spinning a coil of copper wire near magnets. He then touched on how we use energy today including building, transportation, agriculture, communication, and manufacturing.
Following Tom’s presentation, students toured Granite Falls Energy’s ethanol plant with the plantmanager, Robin Spaude, as their tour guide. Students learned all about the functionality of the plant and that this specific plant is one of the most environmentally friendly in the nation. They got the chance to walk around most of the plant and see the machines in operation!
After the tour, students heard once again from Tom McDougall about how the energy we use impacts our atmosphere and what the options are for the team to help reduce energy usage. Steps to reducing include conservation (minimize load), efficiency (use simple cost effective systems like LED), renewables (select sources with low greenhouse gas emissions like solar/wind), and operation (informed building operation).
The day was finished with touring the Granite Falls Dam where they produce hydropower that powers a portion of the city. Students then rode up the hill to a small solar array that generates power for the city as well. Perry Peterson, an electrical superintendent with the City of Granite Falls was there to explain the panel to the students. All of the topics discussed will be applicable to YME as the students work on energy projects this year. The YES! Program is excited to see what the students complete throughout the spring, summer, and fall!