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Atmosphere, Energy



Siting a Wind Farm (Adapted from the NEED Project)
The state of Kansas is a windy place. The further west you travel, the windier it gets! In some Kansas counties, the local county commissions have received numerous proposals from developers to harness this wind in the form of wind farms on public land. A wind farm is one source of renewable energy that may help meet the growing need for electricity in Kansas and in neighboring states.

Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens suggests that the U.S. needs to explore alternative energy resources, including wind, to free the country from dependency on foreign energy sources. Are resources - like wind - the answer to reducing the carbon footprint and providing a safer alternative energy source--while keeping money in the U.S.?

There are many aspects to consider in this scenario. Many wind turbines have already been installed throughout Kansas (Kansas Wind Projects), as many more are still being built to harness the power of the wind. And while Kansas and other states within the wind belt could serve to benefit from this energy source, the debate continues on where to place these wind farms.

Many people are involved with answering these questions about wind farm development.

  • County commissions are responsible for approving zoning of land. The commissions make important decisions about wind farms that may be built: will allowing the development of a wind farm be in the best interest of the public? What are the advantages and disadvantages of building the wind farm? What are the major issues that must be considered before the wind farm is built?
  • The developer creates a plan that details the advantages of establishing a wind farm, and must be prepared to answer questions from groups that may oppose it. Long term benefits, the disadvantages, and potential risk management of wind energy are addressed by the developer.
  • The investor determines the costs, risks, potential earnings, and benefits of investing in the wind farm.
  • The site planner of the wind farm considers many factors to determine the best location for a wind farm. Site planners must take into consideration the important concerns that community members have, and determine the optimum areas for the turbines in regard to local weather patterns. Any other environmental factors that might affect the siting of a wind farm must be considered as well.
In addition to these individuals, farmers and other private landowners, consumers, environmentalists, economists, and utility company representatives are stakeholders who are part of the wind farm development. They will be interested in what impacts a wind farm could have on a community and the environment. Also of interest will be how much money a community or individual could expect to receive as payout for a wind farm on their property. If there are other considerations, be sure to include them.



Wind energy is making the news frequently with the growing need for renewable, alternative energy sources. While certain parts of the United States are natural corridors for capturing wind, there are many facets to planning and constructing a wind farm so this energy can be used. In addition to the time and expenses involved, there are the countless controversies that come into play--not everyone agrees that wind farms are the way to go. Many communities that were once against wind power for any number of reasons have changed their points of view once the check comes in. Is wind power the answer? What are the pros and cons to capturing and dispersing wind energy? What is the long term outlook and affect of wind farms--not only on the environment, but on the pocketbook? What do you think is the future for wind energy, and why?


Date: 10/20/2013

Scenario Images:

Smoky Hills Wind Farm
One of the Smoky Hills Wind Farm turbines--part of Phase II in the completion of the wind farm. (Photo by Dr. Paul Adams, FHSU)

Smoky Hills Wind Farm:  Lincoln and Ellsworth Counties, Kansas
Smoky Hills Wind Farm: Lincoln and Ellsworth Counties, Kansas. (Photo by Terry Shisler).

Wind Power Animation from US Dept. of Energy
Wind Power Animation from US Dept. of Energy
Click Here to see introductory animation to wind power



10 Steps in Building a Wind Farm (Cycle A)
An overview from the American Wind Energy Association


How Wind Power Works (Cycle A)
How Stuff Works gives an explanation on the workings of a wind farm--from the mechanics to government incentives.


How Wind Power Works II (Cycle A)
Another resource for you and your students as to how wind power works


Photo Essay: Construction of the Spearville, Kansas Windfarm (Cycle A)
This photo essay gives an insider's view of the construction of a windfarm--specifically, the Spearville, KS project completed in 2006.


Wind Energy from the Kansas Corporation Commission (Cycle A)
This site includes a variety of links from wind maps to legislation concerning wind power. Scroll to Wind Energy section.


Wind Power Fact Sheet (Cycle A)
Here are some facts from the Sierra Club concerning wind power in Kansas.


Do older wind farms cause more problems? (Cycle B)
Here is a viewpoint published in USA Today a few years ago concerning birds of prey and how they have been affected in the area of an older wind farm in California.


Using Wind Energy to Compress Air for Later Use (Cycle B)
The article explains using wind energy to compress air. The compressed air can later be used to run a turbine to produce electricity for peak-hour usage.


Wind energy bumps into powergrid limits (Cycle B)
Explores an often overlooked aspect of alternative energy - how do you transmit it to the consumer?


Wind Farm Site Considered 10 Miles From Queens Shore (Cycle B)
Has the economic or political climate changed for wind power on Long Island? The Long Island Power Authority hopes so.


Offshore Wind: an Alternative to Offshore Drilling? (Cycle C)
Here are some links to introduce you to wind farms that aren't apt to affect cattle--ocean-based turbines.

Denmark plans its largest offshore wind farm International Nordic News Web Site
Which Way Will the Wind Blow? Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Floating Wind Turbines Poised to Harnesss Ocean Winds Guardian, UK
Wind Farms and Conservation Boston Globe


Top Myths About Wind Energy (Cycle C)
From the British Wind Energy Association BWEA Web Site
Wind Powering America Fact Sheet National Renewable Energy Laboratory Web Site
Wind Power Myths vs. Facts American Wind Energy Association Web Site


Wind Energy: Controversies Abound Across the US and Other Nations (Cycle C)
News from 2008:
Could Wind Farms Affect Weather Systems?The New York Times Web Site
Proposed Woodbury wind turbine generates controversy Hays Daily News Kansas Web Site
Renewable Energy May Dim if Tax Break Ends
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Web Site
Power firm airs plan for giant wind farm (New Zealand)
The Northern Advocate Web Site
Wind farms stir trouble in northwest Missouri The High Plains Journal Web Site


Wind Power and Weather (Cycle C)
Could a plan being explored to use wind to produce a third of the power for New York City affect weather systems?


Sample Investigations:


Wind Power (Cycle A)
This lesson is intended for high school level, but can easily be adapted to middle school.

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to explain the use of wind power as a renewable resource and build models of wind turbines and experiment with the types of changes that will increase efficiency.

Difficulty: advanced


Siting a Wind Farm (Cycle B)
The goal of this KidWind lesson is for students to pick the site for a wind
farm in Massachusetts. Students will examine and synthesize a variety of variables related to four different sites and then select one of these site for the development of the wind farm. No site is perfect, so students will need to make an argument as to why they chose their location. Hopefully they will learn more about the complexities that arise when making decisions related to power generation.
Difficulty: advanced


Wind Power Basics (Cycle B)
This unit introduces students to the concept of generating electricity from the wind. Students will familiarize themselves with these concepts through the
Reading Passage, answering assessment questions, and by conducting a Lab Activity where they will construct and test a windmill to observe how design and position affect the electrical energy produced. Based on their lab results, students will also engage in a follow-up activity to measure the actual power generated by their windmill.
Difficulty: advanced


Energy Notions (Cycle C)
The goal of this KidWind lesson is to explore what your students know about energy sources that create electricity and about emerging technologies that will impact their lives. You might find out that they know nothing. You may find out that they think things will stay the same forever. You may find out that they have no idea what the future may look like.
Difficulty: intermediate


Roping the Kansas Breezes (Cycle C)
This lesson was written with Texas in mind, but can easily be adapted for Kansas.
In this unit, students will learn that wind power in Kansas is a fast growing energy source with great potential. By constructing a wind-powered pinwheel, which creates the energy to perform work, students will gain an understanding of how electricity can be generated by the wind. Students will see value in renewable energy sources for Kansas and be able to locate the most viable geographic regions of Kansas for wind energy. Students will understand that the sun is the ultimate source for the wind.
Difficulty: intermediate


Wind Power Activities for All Grades (Cycle C)
These four investigations explore the main design principles that affect the thermal comfort of buildings. Although the activities are from Australia and are not aligned to U.S. standards, they are included here because of their background material and interesting class projects. The activities can be adapted to U.S. measurements to provide interesting student activities, with the added benefit of illustrating international differences. Select Wind Engery from the menu options.
Difficulty: intermediate




  • Science
    National Science Education Standards - Science Content Standards The science content standards outline what students should know, understand, and be able to do in the natural sciences over the course of K-12 education.
      • Science as Inquiry (Std A)
        • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
        • Understanding about scientific inquiry
      • Physical Science (Std B)
        • Properties of objects and materials
        • Position and motion of objects
        • Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism
      • Life Science (Std C)
        • Organisms and environments
      • Earth and Space Science (Std D)
        • Properties of earth materials
        • Objects in the sky
        • Changes in earth and sky
      • Science and Technology (Std E)
        • Abilities of technological design
        • Understanding about science and technology
        • Abilities to distinguish between natural objects and objects made by humans
      • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives (Std F)
        • Changes in environments
        • Science and technology in local challenges
      • History and Nature of Science (Std G)
        • Science as a human endeavor
      • Science as Inquiry (Std A)
        • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
        • Understanding about scientific inquiry
      • Physical Science (Std B)
        • Properties and changes of properties in matter
        • Motions and forces
        • Transfer of energy
      • Life Science (Std C)
        • Diversity and adaptations of organisms
      • Earth and Space Science (Std D)
        • Structure of the earth system
        • Earth's history
      • Science and Technology (Std E)
        • Abilities of technological design
        • Understanding about science and technology
      • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives (Std F)
        • Populations, resources, and environments
        • Risks and benefits
        • Science and technology in society
      • History and Nature of Science (Std G)
        • Science as a human endeavor
        • Nature of science
        • History of science
      • Science as Inquiry (Std A)
        • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
        • Understanding about scientific inquiry
      • Physical Science (Std B)
        • Structure and properties of matter
        • Chemical reactions
        • Motions and forces
        • Conservation of energy and increase in disorder
        • Interactions of energy and matter
      • Life Science (Std C)
        • Matter, energy, and organization in living systems
        • Behavior of organisms
      • Earth and Space Science (Std D)
        • Energy in the earth system
        • Geochemical cycles
        • Origin and evolution of the earth system
      • Science and Technology (Std E)
        • Abilities of technological design
        • Understanding about science and technology
      • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives (Std F)
        • Personal and community health
        • Population growth
        • Natural resources
        • Environmental quality
        • Natural and human-induced hazards
        • Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges
      • History and Nature of Science (Std G)
        • Science as a human endeavor
        • Nature of scientific knowledge
        • Historical perspectives
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