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Excitement about Energy Efficiency at Rock Bottom Ranch

Posted in Ranch Report

The word “energy” has been buzzworthy around ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch lately. This is due in part to significant clean energy upgrades underway at the Ranch, as well as the fourth grade Energy Unit that ACES Educators are currently teaching in the ACES Ed classrooms at Basalt and Crystal River Elementary schools.

ACES, with support from a Randy Udall Energy Pioneer Grant from the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE), is finalizing the installation of a 25 kW Photovoltaic Array at Rock Bottom Ranch. This system includes 88 solar panels on top of the pole barn and 10 solar panels on top of a brand new eco-education station, part of an extensive project funded by a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). The finished eco-education station will feature educational signage and hands-on tools that highlight the importance of renewable energy and demonstrate how photovoltaic solar panels work. The new photovoltaic system has the capacity to generate enough electricity to power Rock Bottom Ranch for an entire year, the equivalent to six average American households. This new system, in combination with an existing solar thermal installation at the Ranch, will provide a clean, more efficient energy future for Rock Bottom Ranch.

Students began the unit by experimenting with potential and kinetic energy, as well as understanding the Law of Conservation of Energy. Once students discovered that they could not create or destroy energy, students were able to experiment with the different forms of energy. From there, we explored different sources of energy, where students were exposed to the differences between non-renewable and renewable energy sources. Projects such as this also open doors to a variety of new educational opportunities for ACES Ed classes. Fourth grade students at Basalt and Crystal River Elementary schools began the year with an Energy unit in their ACES Ed classes. This unit addresses the Colorado state fourth grade Physical Science standard: energy comes in many forms such as light, heat, sound, magnetic, chemical, and electrical. 

At this point in the unit, students came to the Ranch for a field science program, where they put their energy knowledge to the test! On October 9, 2015, the entire fourth grade class from Crystal River Elementary School made the trip to ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch. The next day, the entire fourth grade class from Basalt Elementary School took part in the energy adventure at the Ranch.

During each of these programs, groups of students competed to create the most energy using three different energy models: a hydroelectric turbine (hydropower), wind turbines (wind energy), and handheld solar panels (solar power). The students were challenged to use the scientific method to come to a conclusion about which renewable energy source generates the most electricity! Pictures of students in action are below.

In addition, students took a tour of the agriculture production at Rock Bottom Ranch to explore the difference between the amount of energy utilized in a sustainable, local agriculture system versus industrial agricultural systems.

  

While participating in these programs, the fourth graders also learned about the different types of dams used throughout the valley and the impacts, both positive and negative, that they can have on the economy and the environment. Students even had the chance to build their own dams at the Ranch and visualize how they could impact the flow of water.

 

To cap off the field science program, students used their knowledge of the transfer of energy and mechanical energy to create delicious apple cider. 

Students will take all of this information back into the classroom, where they will wrap up the Energy unit learning about energy conservation. This lesson is integral to the ACES Ed curriculum and will also prepare students to make informed energy decisions in the future!