SR students learn about renewable energy

Wanda English Burnett

Nearly 100 fourth graders from South Ripley Elementary School were recently able to see what they had been learning about when they took a field trip to Southeastern Indiana REMC.

The day was windy, which is exactly what will be needed for the 60' wind turbine that was erected in the front yard of the electric cooperative on Buckeye Street in Osgood.

Director of Office Services, Barry Lauber, explained the project actually began last spring. Lauber and his daughter, Ashlee Miller, a fourth grade teacher at South Ripley jointly wrote a grant with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association for $500 to bring the concept of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, into her classroom.

The students were able to study data surrounding the “green” theme, write reports and finally see a wind turbine in action at REMC.

Hoosier Energy REC a company that generates and transmits power to Southeastern Indiana REMC, worked together with them on the turbine project and granted REMC $30,000 to offset the cost of the wind turbine.

Lauber said the goal with the project is to educate and provide accurate data to people who are interested in this type of renewable energy. This visual turbine at 60' tall with 15' blades weighing nearly a ton is intended to provide such data.

Any kilowatt hours produced by the wind turbine will go to power the digital electronic sign in the front yard of the REMC facility. On that day it read, “Welcome South Ripley Fourth Graders” for their field trip.

The down side is in this area there is not enough sustainable wind. There needs to be 10-12 mph sustained winds to turn the blades. In Johnson County, after a three month study, their turbine had a day high of 18 kilowatt hours generated, with most days producing little or no kilowatts at all.

“Based on the data that we have received, it would not be economically feasible to purchase a wind turbine like the one we erected at our office with the expectation that it would produce enough kilowatts in a month to meet the average daily energy consumption of 50 to 70 kilowatts needed for lights, electrical appliances, etc,” Lauber told The Versailles Republican.

Of course, there are areas that are more windy than Ripley County where the wind turbines do make a greater impact. Lauber said Benton County, north of Lafayette, is one such place.

Soon you will be able to track the progress and view the data of the newly installed turbine at Osgood by going online at according to Lauber.

“We want our customers to make good, informed decisions before purchasing” Lauber told The Versailles Republican. Some companies are promoting the wind turbines to the general public telling them the wind turbines will produce enough energy in a month to meet their electric needs and they can sell the excess generated kilowatts back to the utility.

Lauber says in some situations that may be true, but the general public is encouraged to look at the data for this geographical area and the initial cost of the installation and turbines themselves before making this substantial investment.

Of course, there are much larger wind turbines available, which come with a heftier price tag.
Lauber thanked Hoosier Energy, particularly the Frank Schmidt crew, who came out for the field trip and brought their digger truck and a 90' two-man bucket truck for the project. Earlier in the month they had dug the base that was 3’x10' deep bolstered with concrete and rebar for the turbine to rest on.

The field trip was educational for the students as it brought to life what they had been studying in the classroom. They were able to see the massive blades up close and even gently touch them. They saw staff from Morton Solar and Wind, Evansville, help get their product ready to be erected.

The final part was seeing the 60' tall turbine go up, up, up and be set into place.

Oh, there was more. Excited cheering from the students came as Ms. Susan Underwood, another fourth grade teacher, agreed to be lifted high into the air in a bucket to inspect the product and take aerial views of the classes.

The students finished their field trip by being treated to snacks in the Southeastern REMC training facility where they also received information packets and T-shirts.

The entire project was about education with the students being the first to experience it.
For more information on renewable energy alternatives and the wind turbine you can visit REMC or go online at

Barry Lauber, pictured second from left, director of office services at Southeastern Indiana REMC, Osgood, explains to the fourth graders from South Ripley Elementary about the blades on the wind turbine that was recently installed at the Osgood facility.