Renewable Energy and the National Energy Policy
A WebQuest for 9th Grade Algebra
There is a big debate going on right now in Washington DC about the future energy policy for the nation. One of the first jobs that vice-president Cheney did was to propose a new national energy policy, and now the Senate and House are debating exactly how to impliment a new policy. What would you do and how would you vote on some of the issues related to the new energy bill?
Energy policy came to the forefront of the nation's attention when
the OPEC nations halted oil exports to the United States back in the 70's. Since
that time wars have been fought, laws have been passed, environmental issues have been
debated, and many technological advancements have been made to help keep adequate energy
supplies available to the United States. This webquest asks you to look at
some of the issues associated with energy supply and demand and also to learn about what
role energy from some renewable sources might play in helping meet the demand for
In working through this webquest you will need to do the following tasks:
You will use the internet to help you learn background information and learn about
specific renewable energy systems. You will need to use a spreadsheet to help design
your household system.
You each will need to make a 5-10 minute
presentation to the class to support your side of the issue. Some of the topics that
should probably be addressed in your presentation include:
If you have never heard of O.P.E.C. or the 1973 oil embargo you can get a quick introduction here at Dowling's Electronic Passport .
Two places that are good starting points in the arguement that there is a shortage of oil are below. The sites also have links to the opposing view and are generally full of energy-related information.
Two places to that argue there is no shortage of oil are at the following sites.
You need to work with your partner to summarize the various forms of renewable energy sources available today. You should concentrate on electrical energy sources, however you may include other fuel sources.
Some of the sources you should be sure to
The basics of how they work.
You should prepare a 1 page summary for each of the energy sources you investigate. The summary could have text, graphics, images, or web links to help the summary.
The company called Real Goods has a wealth of
information about renewable energy. You will probably want to keep this website in
mind for when you want to actually purchase a system in Step 5.
Learn about the basics of home energy use and how electrical energy use is measured. Each of you should work independently to calculate the average electrical energy use as well as peak power requirement for your home. Use an electrical cost of $.08 per KWhr to calculate the electricity cost for your home; or better yet find the actual cost of electricity from your local electrical utility.
Make a spreadsheet that lists the average energy use and the peak power demand for your home.
If you don't know a killowatt from a millivolt
start with the basics of electricity. You need to scroll down to the bottom of this website , but then you will
get everything you need to know about how to determine your home energy use.
Public services of New Hampshire has some tools on its website to help with energy calculations.
The home energy saver website will give energy costs depending on your zip code.
Investigate in-depth one of the renewable sources of energy that you could use to generate a portion of your electrical demand. Learn how that system works and the different options that a system might have.
There is more information about wind and solar systems than any other system so you might want to focus on one of those two systems. However, if your home has a unique situation that might best use one of the other methods, dig into that alternative and learn how it works.
I will interview you about the system you choose and you should be prepared to answer questions along the following lines:
How does your system generate electricity?
Now that you have an understading of the issues
and about some possible solutions, send an email to your Congressional Representative or
your Senator giving your opinion about what should be done with regards to the United
State's energy policy. You can find the email address of your elected official at
the government new website: http://www.firstgov.gov
(just started in March, 2002)
More Specific information on solar photovoltaic systems is availabe from the following
Manufacturers of solar systems have more specific information about how their
individual products work.
More specific information on how wind generators operate can be found at the following websites:
There is always a tradeoff in any design such
You will have to decide what is important to you in a renewable energy system and get the components depending upon your priorities. It would be useful for you to discuss the various issues with your partner.
Create a drawing of your system that shows all the components. Create a spreadsheet that lists each component, cost, and source.
Use the electricity cost from step 3 to calculate how long before the system pays for itself. Don't be too shocked if it turns out to be a very long time.
Each of you will be graded individually based on
the following rubric. You will be able to do much more work and get a higher grade
by working with your partner and sharing the information.
It is probably difficult, right now, to justify
spending a lot of money on a renewable energy system. However, if you are
considering a new home or cabin someplace that is "off the grid" it might be a
feasible option. The situation is very dependent upon what the price of oil is and
what it might be in the future. For many years there have been predictions of a
major energy shortage, yet it has still not evolved. There are many issues to think
about when, or if, the United States needs to reduce the amount of energy derived from
Description or title of image. [Online image] Available http://address/filename , date of document, image, or download.
Hubble Space Telescope Release in the Space Shuttles Payload Bay. [Online image] Available ftp://explorer.arc.nasa.gov/pub/SPACE/GIF/s31-04-015.gif , October 23, 1998.
Oil Tanker at Sea. [Online image] Available from http://www.mrdowling.com/607tanker.jpg ,November 4, 2001.
Oil Rigs Working. [Online image] Available from http://www.hubbertpeak.com/campbell/images/bbc_oilrigs.jpg , November 8, 2000.
Hubbert Curve of Oil Production. [Online image] Available from http://www.hubbertpeak.com/images/cam18sm.gif , 1994-2002.
Photovoltaic Solar Array. [Online image] Availabe from
http://www.nrel.gov/images/dd-feat-pic2.gif March 1, 2000.
Last updated on August 15, 1999. Based on a template from The WebQuest Page