Teen Style: Students research wind energy for senior project

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Chrissy Ford and Ben Paley are looking for community feedback about the possibility of installing a wind turbine at the Steamboat Ski Area. E-mail ideas or suggestions to Ford at chrissyford009@hotmail.com.

— Steamboat Springs High School seniors Chrissy Ford and Ben Paley, both 18, are working locally to solve a worldwide goal: developing sources of alternative energy.

They are an American team with Global Challenge, an online program that gathers ideas from high school students around the world to help fight global climate change. The program started in 2005 and is sponsored in part by the University of Vermont.

"We will team up with another team across the globe, which also consists of two students and a teacher," Ford said.

The students are attempting to introduce Steamboat Springs to the idea of a wind turbine as their senior project for the high school. The Steamboat Ski Area uses some renewable wind energy to power the Christie Peak Express, Burgess Creek and Sunshine Express ski lifts but does not use a turbine as a source of that energy.

"I thought of it while I was looking through a magazine. It talked about Jiminy Peak (Mountain Resort)," Ford said. Jiminy Peak is a ski resort in Massachusetts that installed a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine in July 2007.

"Chrissy (Ford) called me up and told me the idea. We already knew we wanted to do Global Challenge, and this was a perfect idea," Paley said.

Ford and Paley will continue developing the idea by researching wind patterns in Routt County, as well as the total cost of installing a turbine. They'll also look into the project's potential legal issues, monetary savings and amount of energy produced and do background research on potential wind energy producers and the visual appeal of a wind turbine.

Ford said a wind turbine might be too costly to install but that it would pay itself off and go on to save a lot of money. Jiminy Peak's turbine, which is nicknamed "Zephyr," provides about one third of that ski resort's total energy needs.

The students are working with Steamboat Springs High School teacher Eric Nilsson as their mentor. Nilsson's experience with alternative fuel sources includes 12 years with the U.S. Department of Energy, five years working with alternative fuels and two years working with General Motors on concepts for alternative fuel vehicles.

Josie Pacana is a senior at Yampa Valley High School. This is her second year as the editor of Teen Style.

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