EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 25, 2008

Wind in his sails; Teen proposes turbine for new high school

By Margo Sullivan , Staff writer

WINDHAM - David Hutchings, 13, knows he wants to go into science and technology when he's ready for a career. It just might happen David will leave his first mark, not by inventing something new but by retooling an ancient technology - the windmill.

David spoke to the Windham School Board on Tuesday night about a plan to use a windmill - or wind turbine - to help generate electricity at the new high school being built on London Bridge Road.

But it's not just a theory, David was quick to add. He has a fact sheet, showing how much electricity a windmill would generate and an estimate of savings.

David gave school officials three reasons why a windmill is a good idea: reduce dependence on foreign oil; help slow down climate change; and, finally, fossil fuels are limited resources - it's only a matter of time before the world runs out of them.

He also proposed a solar panel to generate electricity on days when the wind isn't sufficient. That's the model schools in Massachusetts have used, said Michele Hutchings, his mother.

David thinks New Hampshire schools are lagging behind schools in Massachusetts, where the state gives generous construction grants earmarked for alternative energy.

"We should already (use) windmills or solar panels to produce energy, but we don't," he said.

Ultimately, he said, it's a matter of education. A windmill would be something people could go to Windham High to see and learn about, he said.

David would like to have a windmill someday when he has his own house. He got interested in windmills when he saw one "in action" in Derry, he said. The owner showed him how the turbine worked.

"He was kind of the inspiration for the whole thing," he said.

David, along with Josh Hebert, 13, also of Windham, came up with the idea of the windmill at the new high school, according to David's mother. David and Josh were competing on a Lego League Robotics team. Part of the competition was completing a science project. The team decided to conduct an energy audit on a building and propose ways to improve energy efficiency.

It turned out the new Windham High is already a green building, David said, due to the choice of double-paned windows, zoned heating and other measures to reduce carbon emissions. So, he focused on the site for ways to improve energy and asked school district engineer Glenn Davis for some estimates about how much electricity and heat the new school would need to operate.

"He was one of the biggest helps with the entire project," David said. "He sent us the information for the energy audit. He even got us specific answers when all we needed were estimates."

Davis met him at the construction site with a windmill expert from Nashua to see if the idea would be viable.

"They understood each other well," David said. "Our chances are high for having a windmill there."

School Superintendent Frank Bass said he invited David to make a pitch to the School Board about the windmill. If the panel likes the idea, Bass will ask if he can investigate ways to make the windmill a reality.

David is home-schooled, but belongs to jazz band at Windham Middle School and maintains ties to the public schools through extracurricular activities, his mother said.