We’re really excited about the project,
NEW BEDFORD – It’s one thing to learn about “green energy” from a book. It’s another to learn about it by working with it. That’s exactly what students at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School will be doing over the next several months and in the years ahead.
With help from a major industry partner, GNB Voc-Tech will be creating a type of green energy classroom to expose students to a variety of new technologies.
“We’re really excited about the project,” said James W. Igoe, the Facilities Manager at GNB Voc-Tech. “It’s going to expose our students to a whole range of green energy all at once – wind, geothermal, photovoltaic, and co-generation.”
In the first stage of the project, the school will use geothermal energy to naturally cool off water from two large fish tanks. The school will sink four wells of at least 50 feet in depth. It then will slowly run water from the two 1,000-gallon fish tanks through a pipe that runs into and out of each of the wells. Water from the fish tanks will never actually touch the groundwater; it will only run through pipe. The series of wells will act as heat exchangers to cool the water to 52 degrees, the year-round temperature at that depth.
“The geothermal potential here is perfect for cooling water,” said Mr. Igoe. “The groundwater at that depth is 52 degrees, year-round.” Some people mistakenly believe that geothermal energy can only be used to heat water, he added.
He said the school will stock the tanks with fish that tolerate colder water.
In the second stage of the project, the school will operate the pumps that circulate the fish tank water with energy from its 3 kilowatt wind turbine, photovoltaic panels attached to the school, and a 74 kilowatt micro turbine donated to the school by Siemens Industry Inc. The micro turbine, worth approximately $75,000, is a co-generation system that will be located in the school’s Steam Engineering program.
In the final stage of the project, the school will hook up the entire system to a kiosk display designed by Siemens and located near the Welcome Center of the school. The kiosk will allow students to track and compare the efficiency of the various technologies.
“The real point here is not to generate energy,” said Mr. Igoe. “It’s to teach our students about green energy.”
Mr. Igoe says Voc-Tech students and teachers are involved in all aspects of the project. Engineering students have assisted with the conceptual design of the project. Electrical students will do electrical wiring for the project. Environmental Science and Technology students will continue to maintain and monitor the fish tanks.
Mr. Igoe said he hopes the wells will be sunk during the summer, with the project fully operational by the fall.
Two years ago, the school erected a 30-foot vertical axis wind turbine outside of its Automotive Technology program. Last summer, it added photovoltaic cells to part of its outer walls. Both of those projects were funded through a comprehensive energy program conducted by Siemens, a worldwide leader in energy systems.
As Facilities Manager at GNB Voc-Tech, Mr. Igoe took the lead role in these projects.
GNB Voc-Tech provides career and technical education as well as academic instruction to more than 2,100 students from Dartmouth, Fairhaven, and New Bedford. It offers nearly30 career majors, ranging from Architectural Drafting and Electrical Technology to Engineering Technology and Steam Engineering.
GNB Voc-Tech is an accredited member of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).