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CPS Energy Grant Helps Jefferson Students Study Renewable Energy

Joey Palacios
TPR News
Junior Chris Harrison (left) demonstrates how the model ethanol plant creates the usable fuel.

Thanks to a grant from CPS Energy, students at Jefferson High School are using state-of-the-art equipment to study renewable energy before their senior year. The program is part of the school’s architecture & environmental studies magnet.

In Blu Odam’s advanced energy and environmental technology class, his six students have been studying how to generate renewable energy.

“Wind energy, solar energy, biofuels which includes bio-diesel and ethanol, and hydro energy which includes damns and water falls,” Odam explained.

At first they used equipment they built themselves -- like a wind-powered generator -- but a grant from CPS energy of $75,000 allowed them to purchase real-world model equipment.

So far the students have used water and wind to generate electricity. Chris Harrison, a junior at Jefferson, said he wants to pursue a career in renewables -- either wind or solar. One of the modules in the class actually lets the students create usable ethanol fuel.

“We can create mash, which is a main component of the fuel," Harrison said. "We have cooling towers here when the heat rises it cools it and turns it back into a liquid and when it collects that’s our ethanol.”

CPS Energy decided to award the grant to Jefferson due to contract agreements with some of the new energy companies in San Antonio.

“I think high school is a great start, but if we can find ways to even get into middle school to teach kids how things are changing in renewable energy and then the outstanding jobs that are available for them," said Lori  Johnson-Leal, CPS Energy’s director of corporate responsibility. "I think we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be right now but it’s amazing to see the technology."

As the students progress into their senior year they’ll also learn weatherization.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules