Renewable Energy Living Lab: Energy Priorities

In this activity, students explore real data about renewable energy potential in their state using a mapping tool developed by NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) to investigate the best locations for wind energy, solar energy, hydropower, geothermal energy, and biomass.

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Mike Mooney
Minal Parekh
Scott Schankweiler
Jessica Noffsinger
Karen Johnson
Jonathan Knudtsen
University of Colorado Boulder; Colorado School of Mines

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Educator should be familiar with the lab visualizations and tools before beginning the activity with students.

This activity can be used to help students become familiar with the mapping tool. After that, many different types of questions can be answered with the tool such as using multiple states for study.

Educator may want to expand the chart on the energy priorities worksheet to allow students to take more in-depth notes on their research. Educator may also want to go through the legend and the units of measurement before jumping into the lesson/analysis.

If time constraints exist, educator may want to jigsaw the activity by having each group of students explore different energy types, locations, costs, etc., and then present their findings to the class as each energy source and use of Living Lab Tool may require significant research. Alternatively this experience could be assigned as a long-term project.

Activity might be more of a challenge if different groups used different states and justified their recommendations to each other, rather than all groups working on the same state.