By Cinnamon Moore

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Twenty science teachers from across North Carolina gathered at UNC-Chapel Hill from June 20-22 to participate in a workshop that helped them learn about new energy technologies and the future of the U.S. electric grid.

The teachers were chosen through a competitive application process to participate in IE’s inaugural Energy Literacy Fellows Program, a year-long teacher professional development experience, made possible with funding from the Duke Energy Foundation.

The three day summer workshop is one of several times the teachers will meet over the course of the year. During the first day of the workshop, IE’s Jordan Kern provided an overview of the U.S. electric grid and Steve Wall described the energy policy landscape in North Carolina. Teachers also conducted an energy mapping exercise to assess the location and distribution of power plants across the nation and in North Carolina specifically.

On the second day of the workshop, the teachers went to the eastern part of the state to visit a swine waste to energy facility in Magnolia and a utility scale solar project in Warsaw. Afterwards they went to NCSU where they toured the the ABB Smart Grid Center of Excellence and the Pulstar Nuclear Research Reactor.

Dana Haine, program director for the Energy Literacy Fellows noted that for the majority of the teachers, touring the swine waste to energy facility was their favorite field trip.

“I think by touring these sites in person, seeing their scale and how they sit on the land, the teachers were able to see the many curriculum connections that can be made by introducing the featured energy technology – from land use implications, to economic considerations, to water quality impacts,” said Haine.

On the third day, teachers received updates on offshore wind from Adam Forrer, from  the Southeastern Wind Coalition, small modular nuclear from IE’s David McNelis, and energy storage from Matt Abele from the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster.

Duke Energy’s Grid Solutions Manager, Jamie Bond, also met with teachers to discuss the future of the grid from the utility’s perspective.

“I think all the industry talk really helped me understand the structure of the grid and I think it will really strengthen my teaching around energy,” wrote one teacher on the post-workshop evaluation.

The workshop concluded with a discussion on how to integrate each of the workshop topics into the classroom.

“In general, I think the teachers really appreciated the up to date content they received and I think many will take what they learned back into the classroom,” said Haine.

Read Haine’s recent Environmental Spotlight blog post on Teachers explore the electric grid of the future.

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