The winds of the Blue (Abajo) Mountains have their ups and downs, but actually are almost always blowing. The town of Monticello, located off the northeast flanks has a telling road sign: “Cool Winds, Warm Welcome.”
These winds create the perfect place for a wind farm. In March 2016, the Latigo Wind Park became fully operational, sending 60 MW of power into the Rocky Mountain Power grid, enough to power 10,000-20,000 homes per year.
The final construction phase of the Latigo Wind Park coincided with the opening of The Four Corners School of Outdoor Education’s Canyon Country Discovery Center (CCDC) on an adjacent property.
Our mission, here at the CCDC, is to guide schoolchildren, tourists and locals alike in an introduction to, or, perhaps a better understanding of the Colorado Plateau. This “place-based education” is learning with context. Whether math, language arts, or another subject, giving it relevance by using local examples of natural cycles like weather patterns of wind and sun, or human land use patterns helps it make sense.
The partnership potential was clear, so with generous support from sPower, Latigo’s developer, owner and operator, we have developed a variety of wind programs for all ages. On a “wind walk” people watch the giant blades rotate around their axes as we explain how large the facility is, where the power goes, and such. Participants hold up anemometers to measure wind speed and use compasses to determine wind direction.
We also offer windmill/turbine making and experimentation programs on-site, at local libraries and at other community events. Participants may harvest the wind using the simplest paper pinwheels. Or they may use more complex models like those of the “Winds of the Plateau” turbine building and testing station in our interactive Education Center to test how the number, shape and angle of the blades affect turbine efficiency. Either way, blades and brainwaves rapidly churn away. To date, more than 770 schoolchildren, locals and tourists have participated in our wind programs.
Whether they experiment with the winds inside from a fan or outside from the Blues, or just marvel at the towering wind turbines at Latigo next door, our visitors delight in learning about powerful solutions to the world’s energy needs.
For more information about the Canyon Country Discovery Center, visit www.fourcornersschool.org.